SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Three witches, a murderer, and two accomplices to a more than 400-year-old crime of fiction all gathered in the theatre department at Centenary College of Louisiana on Tuesday, eager to discuss the way gender is perceived in both historical literature and modern society.

Channing Hall, who plays the role of Lady Mac Beth in Erica Schmidt’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, said the play underwent several variations before arriving at Centenary’s theatre department.

“It started as an idea at Juilliard,” Hall said. “This production of Mac Beth follows seven high school girls who take to an abandoned lot after school to perform this play for each other.”

But Shakespeare’s Macbeth, initially written for an all-male cast and male-dominated society in 1600s England, has themes not typically associated with teenage girls. For this reason, the interview with the actresses in the play will be divided into three acts.

The cast of Mac Beth is back! L to R, in bathtub: Cassidy Jones, Theresa Johnson, Xavier Brown. L to R, back row: Hailey Chiasson, Emma Greer, Channing Hall. Image: Jaclyn Tripp, KTAL


Emma Greer plays the role of Banquo in the production. She said that during the play, every time she and the other actresses aren’t in Shakespeare mode, they’re still fully in character as teenage girls. She said it is a very interesting experience onstage to ‘be a teenager’ and so comfortable and casual in your body.

She loves being a part of what she describes as the giggliest show to hit the stage at Centenary in years.

But that comfortability was hard-earned, not automatic for at least one of the cast members. Hall spoke of an experience from rehearsals that taught her not to be ashamed of a natural aspect of being female.

“During the caldron scene, the witch’s mummy ingredient is her used tampon,” said Hall. “Our director said if you’re not comfortable with it, you should probably examine why that is. And I was like yeah, she’s right.”

The infamous tampon scene, featuring Cassidy Jones, Xavier Brown, and Theresa Johnson. Image courtesy of Emma Greer.

Hall did examine that question. She said she eventually determined that there was no reason to be ashamed.

“They’re surrounded by other girls,” she said of the characters,“ and we’re doing this performance for ourselves,” Hall said. “And even though we’re doing it outward, it’s still for ourselves and for each other. And so I realized there’s no real reason not to do it. I might as well because when will I ever get to say again that I ripped a tampon out for a caldron?”

Hall said that when performing the play for a crowd, there wasn’t time for her to be uncomfortable.

“I lost myself to the moment,” she said.  

Witch 2 is played by Cassidy Jones, who notes some people in the older end of her generation would never be bold enough to do something like this. But with the younger folks, she thinks it’s easier to go out there and do bold stuff, do something crazy and weird, and have a great time doing it.

Witch 1, Theresa Johnson, agreed.

“I think we’re lucky to be the ones that are doing it. Because the playwright is older, I think this is something that people have wanted. It has just taken a while for it to be embraced in a way it could actually succeed. I feel like someone could have written this fifty years ago, but it wouldn’t have worked,” Johnson said.

While some may get caught up in the fact that young women are playing roles, many of this Shakespearean classic’s readers and performers have come to know as men, but cast members want audiences just to enjoy the performances.

“No one is trying to be a man, or pretending to be a man,” said Hall of the teenage characters in the play. “They’ve just come together to do the show for each other and for themselves. They get so invested in their characters that they eventually lose themselves to these characters.”

The ‘teenage girls’ are really losing themselves in the characters in this particular scene. Image courtesy of Emma Greer.

Hall said she felt like a bit of a dweeb in high school, but reliving being a teenager again and having it be the most fun possible version of that experience has been healing for her. The other actresses agree, saying they finally feel a sense of cool-girl redemption for their personal teenage experiences.


Hailey Chiasson knew before she auditioned that she wanted to play Macduff, because he was always her favorite character in the play.

“People aren’t one-dimensional,” Chiasson said. “They’re multi-faceted. It was really interesting to look at Macduff not just through my eyes, but also through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl. So the first thing I did was develop Mary Catherine, my character, and I thought about what she liked about Macduff and what drew her to him. She wants to be a lawyer. She is very just and moral like Macduff, and in my opinion, he is the least selfish person in Shakespeare’s play.”

Witch 1 says Macbeth is almost an old wives’ tale.

“You’re expected to know Romeo and Juliet kill themselves at the end of Romeo and Juliet. Macbeth is gonna get killed. Everyone dies in Hamlet. You see it, and you’re expecting it, and you’re almost looking more at the technique than what is actually going on when you watch one of those plays. But when you come and see this show, the violence is unexpected,” Johnson said.

Hailey Chiasson plays both a teenager and Macduff at the same time in this challenging role. Image courtesy of Emma Greer.

The characters don’t hint at it, and unless you know it’s going to happen, the violence does seem to come out of nowhere.

Johnson said it does remind us of what it would have been like to watch Macbeth when it came out and how heavy these themes are, “and we just kind of pass over them because it’s a classic,” she pointed out.

Xavier Brown, also known as Witch 3, was surprised to learn that many students who came to see the show followed her on Instagram.

“I followed them back because I love when people connect with me,” Brown said. “They are the age of these girls we were performing as, and one of them reposted pictures of the show and wrote ‘I love female rage.’ But so much of the show isn’t that at all, and so I wonder how many people took that away.”

Brown understands why people think there is a lot of anger on the stage, but she believes it’s because there is so much passion.

“Even when things get towards the more violent end, it still isn’t anger,” she said. “There’s something so passive about how ‘angry’ we get.”

Greer knows it’s rare to get to do a show where you get to be weird.

“It’s not Steel Magnolias,” she admits. “We get to be catty, violent, and fight, and be angry and happy and everything, and throw it all against the wall. So we’re all taking advantage of this because we know it might be the last time we get to play characters who are weird because we are women.”

Johnson said that getting roles such as these is not just an issue in Shreveport.

“That’s a problem in general,” she says. “There’s not a lot of female powerhouse plays, but it’s picking up. Most well-written plays aren’t going to reflect this type of thing.”

Hall said, “The issue is that men are supposed to be very dominant, and women are supposed to be very submissive and non-competitive, and be like, ‘I’m an object of your desire, please take me if you want.’ And that is really interesting because we’ll watch movies where men are shooting men for five minutes at a time, and that’s entertainment. But when it is a woman doing the violence, then it goes on for too long. This stems from the idea that women are not supposed to be actively violent.”

The cast has also heard comments about their wardrobes during the play.

“We come in full, proper schoolgirl uniforms, and through the show, as we get deeper, we take off our ties and take off the button-up shirts and wind up wearing sports bras or tank tops,” said Johnson. “And we’ve had a few people say that we take off too much. But we are still very covered, by the way. There’s modest cleavage. No more than you’d have if we were wearing period dress.”

Greer says the group has talked a lot about how women interact with violence as opposed to men, and how that reaches those who come to see the play.

“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” – Macbeth (Image courtesy of Emma Greer)

“I think it’s an interesting thing,” Greer said. “When we see men do violence on the screen and in video games, it’s revenge, or winning back what is owed. It’s because ‘you did this to me and that’s why I’m doing this.’ But the girlhood perspective is a lot more like ‘we don’t get to do this, so we’re alone, and we’re going to explore this side of ourselves. So it doesn’t really have that rage side as much.”

Brown believes the play is so unnerving because even toward the end, when the violence starts, it’s still so playful. The girls still seem to be having fun.

“So much of this show is about making Macbeth more relatable to a modern audience,” said Hall. “All of the props come from these girls’ backpacks. They come straight from school, and so much about this world is visually recognizable and relatable. That has aided the message so much, and it recontextualizes the original horror of Macbeth.

Chiasson feels the characters revel in losing themselves in the play, but in a way that says they just did something—something girls aren’t supposed to do.

“And they find that their passion was found in getting to make a choice. It wasn’t about anger, whereas in Macbeth, Macduff murders Macbeth and it’s a very righteous, horse-drawn chariots rushing in to save the day with a superhero feeling. And it is fueled by rage in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but we don’t say that.”

And by ‘we’ Chiasson is referring to society.

The actress who plays Mac Beth in this quirky rendition of Shakespeare’s masterpiece was not available at the time of the interview.


“In the notes of the play, it says the tartan print the girls wear on their school uniforms is a nod to Scotland,” Greer said. “But we are in America, where school violence is so common as to be horrifyingly banal. So it’s interesting to look at one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays, but know that it’s blood for entertainment sake, and then translate it to these young girls and see how the play inspires them in different ways.”

In an era when teen violence, and violence in general, is a societal issue, Mac Beth can cause both uncomfortable thoughts and even more uncomfortable conversations among those who attend the play. As with the actors in a theatrical production, society must also be built on trust.

“Theatre is built on trust,” said Johnson. “Theatre is built on you being there and being willing to ask for help. And I think this play is just a heightened version of that. We (the actresses) have to trust each other and be like, ‘we’re going to figure it out together.’”

Because when it comes to the societal issues presented in Mac Beth, things can only get better when we all learn to trust one another and figure things out together.

“Schmidt talked about how the original question of Shakespeare’s play is what happens when you stand at the edge of the worst decision a person can make, the taking of a life, and then thinking numbly, you feelingly do it,” said Hall. “And that’s the question of Mac Beth. That’s the question this adaptation seeks to re-ask to the modern audience.”

For more information about this Centenary’s production of Mac Beth or any other performances, visit the university’s website.