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Broadway World nominee: Madison College’s Sarah Johnson recognized for role in Macbeth-based comedy

Mario Gasparri, Staff Writer

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Broadway World – Madison has nominated Madison College’s very own Sarah Z. Johnson for best actress in a play (non-equity) for her performance in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

This isn’t just any Shakespeare play, however, as the Madison Shakespeare Company adapted the script and had a reduced cast because they decided to put on an edition of “drunk Shakespeare.” This means that at least one cast member, in this case it was the man who played Macbeth, would be drinking throughout the performance, while the rest of the performers try to work around what may or may not go down. With only six performers and in a bar setting, the play may be chaotic and focuses on being comical, but still filled with talent and serious moments that gives it authenticity.

In speaking with Johnson, she lamented this fact, saying, “The show was comedy, it wasn’t about people falling down drunk on stage. It was that we were doing this show in way that was funny. It was also great because the director, Francisco Torres, allowed us, for those who had serious speeches, to still do those speeches in a way that was serious.”

Sarah Johnson played three different roles, most prominently Lady Macbeth, as well as the second murderer and second witch, all whose characters are comedically intensified. Johnson said, “I got to play these three very, very different parts, my second murderer was sort of a New Jersey hitman character, and my second witch was like if your fairy godmother was a cheerleader.” She went on to say, “Lady Macbeth was sort of this washed-up 1940s movie star who constantly carried a martini glass everywhere I went, and I would spill it and I would be angry. I’d make Macbeth take drinks for me.”
In contrast to the idea that this is a dumbed-down version of Macbeth, while it might not be as emotionally riveting, the play isn’t a parody or exaggeration, rather another version that still maintains and inhibits the form of Shakespeare. Johnson said, “It was a harder part to act, and I was sort of having to add an extra layer to everything, in terms of, ‘I am not Lady Macbeth, I am playing actor who is playing Lady Macbeth… who is always drunk’.”

Sarah Johnson is part of our English faculty, where she regularly teaches history of theatre. Although she doesn’t act professionally, she maintains a passion to continue to perfect her craft by doing shows here in Madison. “I never want to be the English teacher who’s singing opera, I just want to be the person on stage that fits in with everybody else.”

Right now, Johnson has begun auditioning for parts for this plays in the summer, and may or may not be working with Madison Savoyards, Fresco Opera, or the Madison Shakespeare Company. Madison Shakespeare Company is actually putting on a full production of Johnson’s adapted script of “Edward IV” by Thomas Heywood in the coming summer, and while she may not be acting, it is another milestone for Johnson and her acting career.

By now, Johnson has played numerous characters who are all different from the last, whether it was an over-the-top Japanese schoolgirl for an anime production or the real Lady Macbeth, the contrast between characters gives Johnson an intriguing insight into acting and getting into character.

“I think of some of the roles I have played in the past, and the contrast was fun, I played Marian the Librarian from ‘Music Man,’ and Sarah Brown in ‘Guys and Dolls’ and I can always bring parts of myself that I learned from the last character into the next.”

You can go to broadwayworld.com/Madison to see all the different categories for awards from our local live theatre, and vote for Johnson.

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Broadway World nominee: Madison College’s Sarah Johnson recognized for role in Macbeth-based comedy