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- Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Stratford Festival
Etobicoke Guardian - May 1995
by Kerry Corrigan
Stratford isn't so far from Etobicoke, just ask Seana McKenna. For the veteran stage actress, the journey from backyard theatrics in the Briarcrest neighbourhood to a starring role as Lady Macbeth has been swift and steady.
Articulate and delightfully friendly, Seana recently reminisced about the years that she attended Briarcrest Public School and Holly Crest Senior Public School, while taking a meal from the festival's chef. This was before an evening appearance in Shakespeare's great Scottish tragedy, Macbeth, directed by Marti Maraden.
"In the 60's, Etobicoke was a wonderful place to grow up, a great place for kids, with the houses all close together. There was a neighbour, Elizabeth Walsh, who had the kids in the neighbourhood putting on plays like Pandora's Box , and then it was on to plays in the auditorium at Briarcrest Public School."
After a year at U. of T., she spent three years at the National Theatre School in Montreal. A professional actor for 16 years, Seana performed at the Stratford Festival from 1982 to 1985 as a member of the young company, and has returned twice, to play Portia in The Merchant of Venice, and now as Lady Macbeth, the evil manipulator.
She delivers an intense and multi-textured performance as the ultimate social climber, inciting her husband to seize his destiny and murder his king in order to wrongfully gain the crown.
Ms. McKenna explained that the common superstition surrounding the mention of the word Macbeth in a theatre is rooted in the belief that certain of the witch's spells and incantations are real. "Also, a lot of the scenes happen in the dark and there have been a lot of accidents associated with this play."
The first time she appeared in Macbeth, the director actually tried to invoke the darker spirits.
"If you're out there, come on down. (He told us to) open yourself up to it; you're going to investigate a play about evil, don't try and protect yourself from it. This time, we had no blessings or songs. During our first read-through, I had come to the speech where I say "The direst smoke of hell", and just then the fire alarm went off. Those kinds of things can give you the shivers!"
Ms. McKenna also appears in The Country Wife, a restoration comedy by William Wycherley, directed by Douglas Campbell.
"It's a very black look at their society, and the corruption of innocence. Everybody is mostly obsessed with appearance and reputation, and they don't consider acts to be harmful if nobody knows about them. That society isn't so far off from our own, so hopefully the satire isn't lost on us. And it's very funny!"
She brings with her a resume that would make any actress salivate, including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Cordelia in King Lear, Kate in She Stoops to Conquer, Viola in Twelfth Night, all at Stratford, as well as Candida and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalian, for the Shaw Festival. She has played both Stella and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, Hedda Gabler, Maggie in Dancing at Lughnasa, and enjoyed doing the stand-up comedy in the one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.
A Dora Mavor Moore award for best actress, in the title role of Saint Joan at Theatre Plus, is just one highlight in her successful career. Film and radio work also keep her busy, and her latest appearance before the camera was in Handel's Last Chance, in the series for children on famous composers.
And after this, she'll play Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and then Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra.
Ms. McKenna also appreciates the work of her peers. "I go to the theatre a lot, it's my chosen form of entertainment."
It was only about five years after graduating from theatre school that someone asked Seana on a plane, "What do you do?" and she only hesitated a moment before answering, "I guess I'm an actor." I guess so!
// tie dye