Bringing one of William Shakespeare’s most ambitious tragedies to the stage is no easy feat. Having it be the first production by your brand-new theatre company makes the task doubly impressive. For veteran acting couple Renee O’Connor and Jed Sura, producing a classically staged production of Macbeth as the first show of their new San Pedro theatre company is not only challenging, but also a dream come true.
“It’s one of my favorites of Shakespeare’s plays,” says O’Connor. “I have always wanted to reprise the role of Lady Macbeth after performing as her with Shakespeare by the Sea in 2002.”
Inspired by San Pedro’s ever-growing arts community, the couple toyed with the idea of doing the play as a stand-alone show where they could satiate their creative appetite and not have to commit to anything further. According to O’Connor, that idea changed quickly.
“As we began the process of producing Macbeth as a stand-alone show, every obstacle we overcame pointed us in the direction of becoming a nonprofit, to share the arts as a traditional theatre company. By [doing that], we have the opportunity to put on more shows with greater production value, engage a greater array of students and members of the community, and give more opportunities for local actors to work in a professional environment.”
Sura, who will act opposite his wife as the titular Scottish general, adds, “We’ve always appreciated what San Pedro has to offer. Although a bit off the Hollywood grid, we really love the vibe of the Arts District.”
In Macbeth, the title character (Sura), a brave Scottish general, is given a prophecy by three witches revealing that he will one day become King of Scotland. Fueled by ambition and coerced by his cunning wife (O’Connor), Macbeth wreaks havoc on his way to claiming the throne for himself, leaving a trail of victims in his wake. Ambition run amok and the struggle between fate and free will are just a few of the themes explored in Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.
“It’s a well-known tale and one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, in my opinion,” says Sura. “We also thought this dark and creepy story would be a fun ticket around Halloween.”
With limited performance space in San Pedro as it is, finding a stage that worked for a large production of more than 20 actors was a challenge. Fortunately, the intimate atmosphere of the Grand Annex, with its stage stretching 20-feet across, turned out to be the perfect spot to launch House of Bards.
“We were looking for a decent-sized theater where we would control the atmosphere to create a seductive, dimly lit, foggy setting, and immediately immerse the audience into this medieval world,” says O’Connor. “The intimate size of the Grand Annex lends itself as a moderately adaptable 99-seat theatrical experience.”
O’Connor, who’s known around the world for her role as Gabrielle in Xena: Warrior Princess, started acting in Houston, Texas, in youth theatrical productions. After starring in 134 episodes of Xena (from 1995-2001), O’Connor continued working in film and television, but always returned to the stage.
“I have always remained connected to the theatre,” says O’Connor, “I recently performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet.”
Sura, originally from Michigan, started acting in the theatre at seven-years-old. He eventually moved to Los Angeles, winning roles on television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Masters of Sex, and Criminal Minds, as well as a number of feature films. The couple wed in 2017 and currently reside in San Pedro.
“Being that this is our first production as House of Bards, we are very focused on bringing great performances and production value to Macbeth,” says Sura.
“One of the fundamental reasons that Shakespeare’s work is still relevant today is the fact that all of his stories are timeless,” adds O’Connor. “His plays all revolve around issues that people have faced since the beginning of time and will continue to face forever.”
The House of Bards Theatre Company’s production of Macbeth is directed by Michael Richey and will feature more than 20 local and professional actors. With the anticipated success of Macbeth, House of Bards looks forward to continue producing more shows in the future.
“What the future holds is always an unknown,” says Sura. “We will always strive to bring professional, high-quality theatre to the community, which will hopefully allow them to engage and be a part of an intimate, unique, and educational experience.” spt
Macbeth runs Oct. 11 – Nov. 3 (Thurs, Fri & Sun) at the Grand Annex (434 W. 6th St.). For tickets and more info, visit houseofbards.org.