When young French actress Ilinca Kiss moved to New York to train at Circle in the Square Theatre School, she never imagined doing so would help her achieve one of her greatest dreams: to star as Lady Macbeth in a professional production of the Shakespeare classic—in her homeland.
Kiss created her interpretation of the classic role at the Toursky Theatre in Marseilles in October 2015, directed by Edward Berkeley. This coming summer she and Berkeley will return to France, to adapt his production for an outdoor venue, the Chateau de Lourmarin, a 15th century castle in the heart of Provence.
“Not only did Circle give me great training and a solid foundation, it is also where I met Edward Berkeley, my Shakespeare teacher and future director,” says the French actress and author of a thesis on Macbeth. Kiss also earned a Master’s degree in Literature from the Université de Provence.
“When I started my training at Circle, I already knew a great deal about Shakespeare, but only from a scholarly point of view. Ed’s teaching completely transformed the way I approach classical texts as an actor and strengthened my passion for the stage. I was so happy when he cast me as Dionyza in Pericles for our final graduation project.”
Three years later, her dream to perform Lady Macbeth came true when Berkeley, also director of the Aspen Opera Theater Center and a long-time faculty member at The Juilliard School, accepted the challenge to direct a French production.
It was fascinating for the French actors to work with an American director and a refreshing experience for Berkeley, the New York-based director. “Directing Macbeth in Marseilles was an adventure I highly value,” says Berkeley. “I knew working with Ilinca would be a joy. But working with the talented French cast in my limited French - and their limited English was a thrilling challenge. Neyssan Falahi, the actor who played Macbeth, is bi-lingual, so rehearsing with Neyssan and Ilinca was the easy part. With the rest of the cast, we often found body language to be our best form of communication. Another major plus was working with Leda Atomica, a band that provided live music and played the witches and other spirits. The overall experience of overcoming the language barrier through non-verbal communication, music and deep collaboration was truly fulfilling.”
At its October 9, 2015, Toursky premiere, Macbeth played to packed houses. Among the reviews, Théâtrorama wrote, “Desperately human monsters, this Macbeth and his Lady Macbeth transform the Toursky Theater into a stage of fury and blood.”
With more than 10,000 subscribers, 140 performances each year, and a capacity of 800 seats, the Toursky is one of the most distinguished theatres in Marseilles, having had famous artists such as Tadeusz Kantor (Dead Class), Julia Migenes (Francesco Rosi's film version of Carmen and original Broadway Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof), Barbara Hendricks, Heiner Müller and many other international stars perform there.
After attending the premiere of Macbeth, Janet Meed, president of the artistic committee at the Chateau de Lourmarin, invited Edward Berkeley to visit the Chateau. Once he was there, and awed by the spectacular setting, Meed invited Berkeley to add his production to their summer season.
“Performing the ‘Scottish Play’ at this amazing historic site is going to be very special. Luckily, no one is overly superstitious in our cast,” Kiss said. ”That being said… we’ll make sure to keep on the good side of the ghosts at Lourmarin Castle!”
Berkeley and Kiss are then planning to stage the three-act play Who Will Carry The Word? by French author Charlotte Delbo. Delbo wrote Who Will Carry The Word? about her experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz after she was arrested by the Nazis for being a member of the French resistance. Berkeley and Kiss intend to present Who Will Carry The Word? in Marseilles and New York. Richard Martin, director of the Toursky Theater, has already expressed interest in hosting the production in 2017.
Who Will Carry The Word? was performed on Theater Row by Berkeley’s Willow Cabin Theater Company in 1992. Willow Cabin, a company of mostly Circle in the Square Theatre School alumni, was nominated for a Tony Award for its 1993 production of Wilder, Wilder, Wilder—which Berkeley directed.