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Shakespeare is not dead in Statesboro
He just looks that way in the Averitt Center's 'Zombie Macbeth'
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Director John Forrest Ferguson, center, goes over some post-rehearsal notes with the cast of "Zombie Macbeth." - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Something wicked this way comes — dropping limbs and hunting brains along the way.
    The Shakespearean tragedy "Macbeth" is staggering into Statesboro with one major change: the added element of zombies.
        "Zombie Macbeth," the Averitt Center for the Arts' latest Youth Theatre production, puts a macabre twist on the Bard's tale of murder and madness.
    In a post-apocalyptic world, zombies roam the earth while King Duncan rules the last of humanity in an underground sewer encampment. Macbeth, one of Duncan's loyal subordinates, returns from a victorious battle against the zombies and is given newfound power in the kingdom. However, unbeknownst to all — even himself — Macbeth has contracted the zombie virus during his time aboveground, turning him into a bloodthirsty killer who will stop at nothing to be king. As in the original version, things go from bad to worse: The humans attempt to protect themselves against a zombie infiltration, and Macbeth loses his head to the virus.
    "This is bringing Shakespeare to our community in an entirely different light," said assistant director Susan Jackson. "We hope to get our younger actors hooked on Shakespeare, so to speak. It's going to be very exciting."
    The script, of course, comes from Shakespeare, but the play's concept comes from director John Forrest Ferguson, a high school teacher from Knoxville, Tennessee. Ferguson came up with the idea of marrying zombies with "Macbeth" to excite and intrigue his high-school student performers.
    "I realized that I only had to change three lines of the script, and it works," Ferguson said, adding that he did not even need to change the lines' iambic pentameter. " 'Wegions," the Viking menace of the original play, became "zombies" with ease, and the change opened up a new lens through which to explore the play's themes of betrayal, fate, moral decay and debilitating guilt.
    High school students had the opportunity to participate in a three-week-long camp preceding the performance where they were exposed to all aspects of theater, including stage movement, vocal and acting techniques, and set design. Participants of the camp will join members of the community and of the Statesboro Youth Theater onstage in the production of "Zombie Macbeth."
    The production is being directed by Ferguson, who is both a professional director and actor, with the assistance of Susan Jackson. Devon Thompson will choreograph the performance.
    The role of Macbeth will be played by Tehrelle Billups while Abigail Eller will portray the character of his power-hungry wife, Lady Macbeth. Audience members will have the opportunity to interact with cast members prior to the performance and are invited to dress in their best zombie attire.
    "This highly talented group has worked hard to bring this production to the Emma Kelly Theater. This is a performance and experience you won't want to miss," said Tim Chapman, Averitt Center for the Arts Executive Director.
    "Zombie Macbeth" will be performed in the Emma Kelly Theater on Friday, June 26, and Saturday, June 27 at 7 p.m. There will be a Sunday matinee June 28 at 2 p.m.
    Tickets can be purchased by calling (912) 212-2787, or by visiting the Emma Kelly Theater Box Office in downtown Statesboro. The Box Office is open Tuesday through Friday from noon–5:30 p.m.

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