Gathering free TV’s for Macbeth: nach Shakespeare

Imagine if, ten years ago, you could drive around collecting free, working televisions until you filled several carloads, then finally had to abandon dozens more because you had no room.

That’s where we’re at today, as the dominant technology of our living room becomes obsolete practically overnight. HDTV is sending those heavy, awkward boxes out to the curb, to be replaced with newer, more expensive, and quicker-to-obsolescence machines.

I’m designing media for a new theatre show – Macbeth: nach Shakespeare by Heiner Muller. I’m building a throne of televisions that will show piles of corpses whenever the King sits on it… I thought it might be easy to gather free TV’s through craigslist, but I never imagined how quickly the cathode-ray sets were being discarded.

This class-warfare Macbeth takes the moral clarity out of the story: Instead of Macbeth murdering a wonderful King out of pure bloody ambition, we start the play with Macbeth committing murders for the King’s benefit. Peasants strung up for not paying rent, rebellious lords skinned alive for disloyalty. So when Macbeth decides to murder up instead of murdering down, the moral leap isn’t that big: what’s one more dead body on the pile?

(As I type this during rehearsal, MacDuff has just ripped a peasant’s tongue out, and her screams are disturbing my blogging… “That saves the bell,” Macduff says, “Hey, wake up Thanes. You hear the meat calling for eaters. To dinner, butchers. Murder has set the table, treason salted the meat.”)

Heiner Muller was a left-wing dissident artist in a left-wing dictatorship. His sampling of Shakespeare takes a poke at power structures and the brutality of regime change.  As a result of this work, I’ve been pondering the death of Analogue and the rise of Digital in the context of a power-grab: a cabal of hi-tech moguls has pushed us into ever-increasing consumption, pollution, waste and spectatorship.  The only reason they’re doing it is so they can take our money faster, and keep us running to keep up with their money-making ideas.

How long has the CRT TV been around?  And yet even as it got shoved out the door in favour of flat screens, already we had HDTV, then LED sets, now 3D… what’s next?  And how long until the HDTV coming in the front door of  your house right now gets tossed out into the alley?

I do hope you come to the show, which runs May 20-29 at Performance Works.


(this is me after a day of gathering tv's)

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