Lynn Robert Berg and Erin Partin 

'Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow' with Idaho Shakespeare Festival's Lord and Lady Macbeth

Lynn Robert Berg and Erin Partin

Bingo Barnes

Lynn Robert Berg and Erin Partin

Lady Macbeth reminds us, "Wthat's done cannot be undone." Indeed, much is done in Macbeth, one of theater's greatest tragedies, returning this summer to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Macbeth opened June 2 and will run in repertory, along with Misery, through much of the month. In advance of its start, Boise Weekly sat down with Idaho Shakespeare Festival veterans Lynn Robert Berg (Macbeth) and Erin Partin (Lady Macbeth), who co-star in "The Scottish Play" in Boise until Saturday, June 23, when they'll transfer the production to their sister company, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, and continue to perform it through the end of August.

Where do you start with Macbeth? A deep dive into Scottish history, or the text itself?

Berg: You have to work on this play as if it's never been seen before. There's an assumption that, "Oh, everybody knows Macbeth." There are a good many people who have seen it and maybe just never got it. I met a guy last night who told me that he had never seen Macbeth.

Partin: Most people might know the CliffsNotes version: "Oh, that's the couple that kill everybody." But there's so much richness and so many surprises when we really dig into the entirety of the story. I think it's one of Shakespeare's easiest plots because there are no subplots.

How have you deconstructed Lady Macbeth?

Partin: My Lady Macbeth has quite a bit of power, and their marriage is very good until it's not. They're a couple who believes in each other and knows what they want.

Berg: And Macbeth is a hero when we first meet him. He has just saved the country from certain doom from invaders, within and without. But power and personal gain has been out of reach for him until he's presented with a prophecy from the witches who tell him, "You can have this." And he pretty quickly recognizes that, "If I want this, I have to do terrible things to get it." As the play goes on, that villainy is easier and easier, until he's so steeped in blood that he can wade no more.

It's important to note that your director, Charlie Fee, has chosen a very historical production, similar to last year's production of Hamlet. In his production notes, he writes, "With both Hamlet and Macbeth, we have taken a pause from contemporary references. No cellphones, video screens or contemporary music. We hope you enjoy this radical idea."

Partin: It's a beautiful set, reminiscent of the Old Globe. Plus, there's a lot of candlelight, and there are people, once again, seated on stage with us.

Berg: It actually highlights the theatricality of the evening. It's really exciting in that it doesn't create a distance or separation from the audience. Think of Game of Thrones, with all of its costuming and fantasy. Yet these themes are timeless. Macbeth is the same way. Shakespeare was truly great at pinpointing the human condition so beautifully, so expressively. There are parts of the play that feel as if they were written yesterday.

click to enlarge Lynn Robert Berg and Erin Partin are Lord and Lady Macbeth at ISF, running through June 23. - ROGER MASTROIANNI
  • Roger Mastroianni
  • Lynn Robert Berg and Erin Partin are Lord and Lady Macbeth at ISF, running through June 23.

Much has been written about the superstition surrounding Macbeth. We've heard that you're not supposed to mention the name of the play backstage.

Partin: When you're working on it, you can say it as often as you like. If you're working on any other play, you're not supposed to say the name of this play.

Berg: I defer to Patrick Stewart who said, "If you've played it, you can say it any time you want."

Otherwise, it's also called McB or Mr. M.

Partin: Or Mackers.

Berg: Or The Scottish Play.

Can you speak to how you condition yourselves to perform in dessert air and relatively high altitude?

Partin: I have to make sure to hydrate throughout the day. I usually start hiking to build up my endurance.

Berg: The first day I got back to Boise, I went for a run so that I could start getting my lungs ready for this dry climate. It's important for me to find a way to get my breath under me so that my instrument is relaxed. If I don't get my breath under me, I can't be free out there on stage.

Erin, where is home for you?

Partin: Delaware. That's where I live with my husband—he's also an actor—and our daughter. They'll actually be coming here and joining me in Tahoe for some time as well. Reunited and it feels so good.

Berg: Just like the song.

Lynn, you don't have to look too far to see your wife. Quite often, you're sharing the same stage [Laura Welsh Berg has also performed in multiple productions at ISF].

Berg: We work together all the time, and we just celebrated 10 years of marriage. That's pretty amazing. I don't know a lot of people who work with their spouse all the time.

With great success.

Berg: Yes, it's pretty wild.

And Boise is home for you.

Berg: I grew up here and I'm a proud graduate of Boise State.

Do you have a sense of how many professional shows you've performed in?

Berg: In 20 years, I've had over 105 openings.

And Erin, you've graced the ISF stage on multiple occasions, most recently as Ophelia in last year's Hamlet.

Partin: I remember last year, there was a huge gust of wind, followed by rain. And we had to shout to be heard. But that audience stuck with us. By Act 2, it cleared up, the air was perfectly crisp, and you could hear every word, every sigh. I find Idaho to have some of the loveliest audiences.

Berg: Absolutely. I couldn't agree more.

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