Spiritual Symbol Protects Lincoln Center Theater’s Macbeth From Legendary Curse

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01 Jan 2014

Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

While working on Lincoln Center Theater's Macbeth, set designer Scott Pask uncovered the secret in a 400-year-old mandala that may ward off the legendary curse which haunts Shakespeare's tragedy. 

One of the most enduring stage superstitions is the belief that Shakespeare’s Macbeth is somehow cursed, and that even to speak the title aloud inside a theatre is to invite catastrophe.

However, the cast of the current Broadway revival of what is known as "the Scottish play" believes they may have found the antidote.

The centerpiece of the show’s artwork is a mandala, created by set designer Scott Pask, consisting of two circles, a pentagram and three heptagons, labeled with the name of God and his angels, according to a program note.

The production, which opened November 21, 2013, has been uncharacteristically trouble-free, according to veteran production stage manager Tripp Phillips.

Pask’s design is based on "The Seal of God’s Truth," created in 1582 by Dr. John Dee, a mathematician, astronomer and scholar who was a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and who claimed to have been instructed in its design through direct communication with angels. A contemporary of Shakespeare, Dee is believed to have been one of the inspirations for the wizard Prospero in The Tempest.

The mandala, which appears on the show's posters and Playbill cover, is also painted onto the Vivian Beaumont Theatre’s circular stage. The entire show is played on the mandala.

Cast members Stephanie Fieger and Shirine Babb, who are also serving as correspondents for the forthcoming 2014 "Playbill Broadway Yearbook," alerted Playbill to the fact that the mandala seems to be warding off most of the usual backstage glitches and gremlins that seem to bedevil many productions.


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