Whitney White has always wondered why she finds the women in William Shakespeare’s tragedies so appealing when so many end up disgraced or dead before the final curtain. But then again, the Brooklyn-based actor and director worries, ambitious women, both on stage and off, often don’t fare much better today.
“Why do Western narratives reaffirm the fact that it’s really hard for a woman to be ambitious and powerful and in love? Why is that a deadly trifecta in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Cleopatra,’ ‘Macbeth’ … I am just curious about it,” said White during an online discussion in April with Shakespeare scholars including Harvard’s Stephen Greenblatt.
White plans to examine these questions in a five-part series, commissioned by the American Repertory Theater, that takes a closer look at the trajectory of women in the Bard’s works. The first, “Macbeth in Stride,” began previews Oct. 23 and officially opens this Thursday (Oct 28). It sees the world of the play through the eyes of Lady Macbeth, a woman whose ruthless ambition drives her mad, but not before she urges her husband to commit a few murders along the way.
White believes Shakespeare’s plays address the modern human experience, despite being more than 500 years old. She said that as a Black woman from Chicago, she’s long seen herself and her daily experiences reflected in the world of Shakespeare, and that his work has the power “to speak to all of us … [and] the world as it is now.”