Hunter Ringsmith and Anna Troy, recent college graduates, play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in this summer’s apprentice performance of “Macbeth” at the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF).
Every year, GRSF Founding Director Paul Barnes travels to universities across the country to audition people for the actor apprentice program. Ringsmith met Barnes during a visit to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. “I auditioned for him, and the ball kind of rolled from there,” Ringsmith noted. “I had a similar experience. Paul came down to my school [Oklahoma City University] as well. He knew the head of our acting department,” Troy added.
Both Ringsmith and Troy shared how meaningful this summer has been. “I’m playing Macbeth and it’s been an incredible experience,” Ringsmith explained. “It’s a challenging role, and such an incredibly challenging play, but we’ve got such a great cast that we’re working with, and team members that are working hard to make this really new and exciting vision happen.” Troy explained how much she’s learned from working with a company. “Just being a part of the apprentice company has been great; the way people take care of you and really nurture your craft here is just wonderful. All of the people in the company have just been so open and loving and trusting and great to every single one of us. To be able to take what we’ve learned in rehearsals with the professional actors into our own rehearsals has been a really interesting process.” “I’ve learned a lot in watching professional actors work with these beautiful, beautiful words, and how it’s informed their choices as actors,” Ringsmith added.
Troy has carried a love for Shakespeare from a young age. “I had a mom who had a big love for theater, and she taught a Shakespeare class through psychology. Every year she would take her class to Chicago Shakes, or somewhere like that, and I would tag along and go on all the trips,” Troy noted. “I was exposed to it pretty early on, and last summer, I did a Shakespeare theater intensive course in London for five weeks.”
Ringsmith has had plenty of experience with Shakespeare, too. Before joining GRSF this year, Ringsmith performed in “The Tempest” and “Julius Caesar,” and in college acted in “Othello.” “My entire senior year was really dedicated to Shakespeare; we’d study Shakespeare scenes in our acting class, work on Shakespeare monologues in our voice class, and we’d focus on Shakespeare’s clowns in our movement class,” Ringsmith explained. “It’s very focused, because the idea is that if you are trained to play Shakespeare, you can take on any text. It’s a great kind of training and background for young actors to sink their teeth into.”
Ringsmith and Troy are excited to share their work. “What’s so cool about this production is that it’s in such a small space that we’re really pushing the boundaries of intimacy in terms of secrets, and the audience, and the actors,” Ringsmith explained excitedly. He loves the idea that he can just talk to somebody in front of him about what’s going on in the deepest, darkest parts of his character.” Troy agreed with Ringsmith’s sentiments, adding, “It’s a really raw production; it’s really vulnerable, and there’s just a lot of beautiful work by this ensemble, an ensemble that’s put together a very open production of ‘Macbeth.’” Ringsmith believes the stripped down version of the play has helped them showcase Shakespeare’s words. “They are some of the most beautiful words in the English language, so to surround ourselves with that every night has just been an incredible experience for me.”
The apprentices also mentioned how welcome they’ve felt in Winona this summer, and how involved the community is with GRSF. Ringsmith has been very impressed with the enthusiasm of the audiences and their hunger for Shakespeare. “I’m really excited to be a part of this legacy and take them on this journey,” he said.
Troy expressed how wonderful it feels to become so integrated into the community. In particular, she noted that the Friends of Will group has taken good care of the apprentices. “It’s just really exciting to see a whole community come together to support a theater,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really seen anything like this in any city that I’ve been in. It’s just beautiful, just really beautiful.”
Tickets are selling fast for “Macbeth.” The show runs from July 25 through August 2. To purchase tickets visit www.grsf.org, or call the box office at 507-474-7900. Tickets are $15.