"Voodoo Macbeth" - Trailer and Interview - Orson Welles - HD Restored 4K
The Voodoo Macbeth is a common nickname for the Federal Theatre Project's 1936 New York production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Orson Welles adapted and directed the production, moved the play's setting from Scotland to a fictional Caribbean island, recruited an entirely Black cast, and earned the nickname for his production from the Haitian vodou that fulfilled the role of Scottish witchcraft.:86 A box office sensation, the production is regarded as a landmark theatrical event for several reasons: its innovative interpretation of the play, its success in promoting African-American theatre, and its role in securing the reputation of its 20-year-old director.
“Voodoo Macbeth” Excerpt from We Work Again (1937)
Production Company: U.S. Works Progress Administration. Transfer Note: Copied from a 35mm positive preprint preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration. Running Time: 4 minutes.
Featured in Treasures from American Film Archives: Encore Edition.
It had long been assumed that no sound or moving images survived from Orson Welles’s legendary “Voodoo Macbeth,” the Federal Theatre Project’s 1936 Harlem stage production of Shakespeare’s play, set in Haiti with an African American cast. But priceless historical footage can turn up within unlikely places. This long-forgotten record of the first professional play staged by Orson Welles was found in another film, the U.S. government-produced We Work Again, a Depression-era documentary on African American employment.
Orson Welles was twenty years old when he directed the Macbeth seen here. The offer came from his early mentor John Houseman, who had been appointed head of the Negro Theatre Unit of the WPA’s Federal Theatre Project. (The $23.86 per week salary was not an inducement. Welles’s radio voice already earned him a thousand dollars a week, much of which he spent on the production.) After mounting two newly commissioned plays by African Americans, the Negro Theatre Unit was looking to produce a “classical” play with a black cast. Welles’s concept—which he credited to his wife, Virginia Nicolson—was to move Macbeth from medieval Scotland to nineteenth-century Haiti and the court of Henri Christophe (1767?–1820), the former slave who proclaimed himself “King Henry I.” Key to the transposition, as Welles put it at the time, was that “the witch element in the play falls beautifully into the supernatural atmosphere of Haitian voodoo.” If few of the available black actors had experience with blank verse, that was all the better to Welles. After a long three-month rehearsal, Macbeth opened at the Lafayette Theater (7th Ave. at 133rd St.) on April 14, 1936.
This recording is for educational purposes only and is covered under Fair Use doctrine - Copyright - All rights reserved to their respective owners.
Read the unabridged plays online: https://shakespearenetwork.net/works/plays
Screen Adaptation - Co-Production : MISANTHROPOS – Official Website - https://www.misanthropos.net
Adapted by Maximianno Cobra, from Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens", the film exposes the timeless challenge of social hypocrisy, disillusion and annihilation against the poetics of friendship, love, and beauty.
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