‘Macbeth’ Play Goes ‘Latino’ Style


Macbeth and Banquo reminded director Jesse Ontiveros of Fidel and Che, and that was the genesis for his idea to set “Macbeth” in a banana republic for the Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, in a production to be presented July 30 to August 15 in the parking lot at 114 Norfolk Street (between Delancey and Rivington Streets), behind The Clemente.

This will be the second production behind The Clemente for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, which previously was performed for 20 years in the municipal lot at Ludlow and Broome Streets. Its first production in the new space will be “As You Like It” July 9 to 26.

“Macbeth” is a play about power and this production seeks perspective on its eternal themes from the political history of Latino cultures. Director Jesse Ontiveros, who directed Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’s “As You Like It” in 2006, is of Mexican heritage. Hamilton Clancy, Artistic Director of The Drilling Company which produces Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, is excited to welcome Ontiveros back to direct as his company begins its new partnership with The Clemente, an arts organization that serves the Latino community.

Cast ensemble
Macbeth (Dan Teachout) and witches (LR: Gracie Winchester, Kineta Kunutu, Llewie Nunez). Photo by Maia Sacca-Schaeffer.

Clancy says, “When Jesse brought me his concept for a Latino ‘Macbeth,’ I thought it would be an ideal vehicle for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot to expand the community it serves. The Clemente is dedicated to the Latino community, and so it serves a very specific part of the Lower East Side that we have not yet been able to engage fully, even though we aim to serve the entire multicultural community.”

The production is designed to give audiences the recognition of a coup d’etat in a setting which is more accessible nowadays and therefore more instructive in the play’s themes. Ontiveros says, “The idea is of soldiers, one of whom comes into power but doesn’t know how to rule, only how to behave like a soldier. He lives by the rule of ‘if not war, then at least death.’ So he makes the earth bleed.”

Ontiveros’ production will also include a Hecate, the senior witch, whose part is is excised in many productions. So there will be four witches representing evil. The three novices, impetuous, jump the gun on Hecate’s idea of infiltrating the Macbeth household. It’s a playful nuance and a commentary on people who are eager to go to war, lacking the maturity to see its complexity. That, says director Ontiveros, can happen to any one of us.

The set will utilize aspects of the parking lot: a withered, viney tree that is embedded in a fence and a large wall with graffiti. Together they suggest if not a tropical jungle, then at least an urban jungle.

The cast includes Dan Teachout as Macbeth, Sheri Graubert as Lady Macbeth, Robert Arcaro as Duncan, Lucas Calzada as Malcolm, Kineta Kunutu as Hecate; Gracie Winchester, Leila Okafor and Llewie Nunez as witches, Andrew Valins as MacDuff, Veronica Cruz as Lady Macduff, Joe Clancy as Fleance, Jack Sochet as Ross and Bill Green as Porter.

Director Jesse Ontiveros staged “As You Like It” for The Drilling Company when it took over as sole producer of Shakespeare in the municipal parking lot in 2006. He has also staged “As You Like It” for The Alibi Group, where he is Artistic Director. His NY directing credits include “Cigarettes and Chocolate,” Metamorphoses,” “Anything but Black,” “Whisper,” “47 Years of Marriage,” “The Hummingbird” and “Wally and the Chosen Few.” In regional theaters, he has directed “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Taming of the Shrew,” Boleros for the Disenchanted,” “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later,” “The Rant,” “Love Letters” and “Eden’s End.”


Shakespeare in the Parking Lot (SITPL) was begun in 1995 by Expanded Arts under the artistic direction of Jennifer Spahr. When Ms. Spahr retired in 2000, an organization known as Ludlow Ten was formed under the direction of Leonard McKenzie. The Drilling Company began co-producing SITPL with Ludlow Ten in 2001. After Mr. McKenzie’s retirement in 2005, The Drilling Company was asked to continue the great tradition of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot. A chronology of the year-by-year offerings in the unique setting is available on the Shakespeare in the Parking Lot website, www.shakespeareintheparkinglot.com. The concept of free Shakespeare in a parking lot, presented with a “poor theater” aesthetic, is now widely imitated around the US and around the world, with productions as far away as New Zealand.

In 2014, having lost its Parking Lot when the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area gave way to a giant mixed-used development, The Drilling Company sought a new location in the Lower East Side to continue the spunky Lower East Side tradition. After a nine-month search, the new space adjacent to The Clemente, on Norfolk Street between Delancey and Rivington Streets, was arranged. Like the previous location, it is a working parking lot and has the urban, gritty atmosphere that has made these productions memorable through the years. It is just three blocks from the municipal parking lot where the annual Free Shakespeare festival originated in 1995.

Last season, the Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot Ensemble presented “Hamlet” and a Bard’s Birthday Bash for the first season of Bryant Park Shakespeare. This year, the troupe was invited back by Bryant Park Corporation to become Bryant Park Shakespeare’s exclusive producer, to repeat the Birthday Bash and to stage three mainstage productions.

Beside producing SITPL, The Drilling Company, under the direction of Hamilton Clancy, is an incubator of new American plays. It produced new works in an intimate theater space at 236 West 78th Street, formerly 78th Street Theater Lab, from 1999 to 2014 and is presently seeking new digs for this aspect of its work.

A Season for the Record Books

No other cultural organization has ever offered five free Shakespeare productions in one season, but this is exactly what The Drilling Company is doing this year, all on a shoestring budget. (Ironically, a Shakespeare play has five acts.) As the producer of both Shakespeare in the Parking Lot and Bryant Park Shakespeare, it is offering two productions Downtown and three in Midtown. For Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, it is presenting “As You Like It” July 9 to 26 and “Macbeth” July 30 to August 15. For Bryant Park Shakespeare, it has performed “Two Gentlemen of Verona” May 15 to 31 and will perform “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Dave Marantz, July 17 to August 2 and “The Taming of the Shrew,” directed by Alessandro Colla, September 4 to 20. Artistic Director Hamilton Clancy says, “This year, we have received a tremendous opportunity to expand the optreach of the Shakespeare we are presenting. The two venues have very different audiences, and we are building bridges between these audiences.”

“Macbeth” will be performed July 30 to August 15, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and all admission is free. Seats are available on a first come first served basis, with audience members often arriving early to secure a place. Audience members are welcome to bring their own chairs. Once seats are gone, blankets are spread out. No one has ever been turned away and there’s never a wait for tickets.

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.