PLAYBILL.COM’S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Liev Schreiber

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM’S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Liev Schreiber
 
In between his numerous film commitments, Liev Schreiber seems committed to completing the Shakespeare catalogue at the Public Theater. Following his performances in The Tempest, Macbeth, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Othello and Henry V, Schreiber has again returned to “The Scottish Play,” but now playing the title murderer. Macbeth opens this year’s Shakespeare in the Park season, which offers New Yorkers two free productions in Central Park. Playbill.com spoke to Schreiber in the front row of the Delacorte Theatre just two hours prior to the show’s first preview on June 14.
Liev Schreiber in the role of Macbeth at the New York Shakespeare Festival.
Liev Schreiber in the role of Macbeth at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Michal Daniel

PLAYBILL.COM: Have you performed the role of Macbeth before?
LS: No. I played Banquo in George Wolfe’s production in 1998 with Alec Baldwin as Macbeth.

PLAYBILL.COM: What makes Macbeth the right role for you to perform now?
LS: For the Public Theater, it’s a wartime play. It’s something that is topical to people. I don’t know if I respond to things in an openly political way. I just think they’re planted in your subconscious. For me, what’s fascinating about the character is the war that he wages in his mind—the interior battle of morality and conscience. It’s good stuff.

PLAYBILL.COM: How does it compare to the other Shakespearean roles that you have performed?
LS: Well, it's a lot darker. It’s a little bit quicker. Macbeth sees things. He’s having delusions about seeing witches and daggers floating through the air. He seems mad to me.

PLAYBILL.COM: And how do you personally compare to Macbeth?
LS: Well, I’ve never killed anyone, so that’s kind of a leap for me. But I certainly identify with the same issues of conscience. We all have ambitions and anxieties that get in the way of our daily lives. I think that Macbeth’s are just all-consuming.

PLAYBILL.COM: What was your first step to prepare for the role?
LS: With Shakespeare, generally, because its so text-oriented, you have to start with the text. It’s about decoding and analyzing the text. For me, character just kind of springs out of that.

PLAYBILL.COM: What time period does the production take place in?
LS: Our director Moises Kaufman is playing with is a period that draws its influences from The Great War. Because we’re a nation at war now, he wanted to perhaps draw and compare on past wars.

PLAYBILL.COM: How does Kaufman compare to other directors with whom you have worked on Shakespeare?
LS: Moises has an incredible visual eye and he’s the kind of person who’s inspired and driven by images. That, I think, for me, has been the defining trait of his direction.

PLAYBILL.COM: What was the best piece of advice that you received from him?
LS: Remember that we are the creator of beautiful things.

PLAYBILL.COM: How did you interpret that?
LS: To take pride in your work and to cherish it and to respect it and other people’s work as well.

PLAYBILL.COM: Have any cuts or alterations been made to the text?
LS: We have made some cuts and some amendments of text for the purpose of clarity and brevity, but nothing too big.

PLAYBILL.COM: Was it your idea to grow a full beard for the role?
LS: Moises had asked me to look at "Paths of Glory" and some other films to research the period. Yes, I have been trying to grow some hair. I think hopefully it refers to a time when it was fashionable for men to have hair on their face.

PLAYBILL.COM: Is it true that you wrote your brother, Pablo Schreiber, a text message to watch the Tony Award nominations before you announced on television that he was nominated for Awake and Sing?
LS: I’m going to get in trouble for this. Yes, I secretly texted him that I’d be announcing the nominations and that he had to watch. I was very excited for him.

PLAYBILL.COM: Might you ever consider doing an Odets play?
LS: I wouldn’t before, but now I certainly would. They really opened my eyes to that writer. I like Waiting for Lefty. It needs a really good director.

PLAYBILL.COM: What Shakespeare role do you think you may perform next?
LS: I don’t know. It’s very difficult work. Maybe a comedy.

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