“Fair is foul and foul is fair

Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

Witches, Macbeth

On the evening of Sunday, October 21, Boston experienced something unique and exhilarating at the Arnold Arboretum: a performance of Macbeth—Fog x Macbeth—presented by Actors’ Shakespeare Project (ASP). More than a thousand gathered on blankets, in beach chairs, and under winter coats, while ASP’s crew set up complex, technical equipment to ready the “stage” for theater in the heart of the Arboretum. Fog x Macbeth, a unique, abridged 60 minute play, was custom edited and staged from Migdalia Cruz’s modern verse translation, for the cool, winding down days of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Fog x FLO installation.

While we can in no way envision the “filthy” air of Macbeth’s fifteenth century, brutal, tyrannical Scotland, we could “hover” for a brief time in the ethereal, changeable fog by artist, Fujiko Nakaya. It was as if the fog was choreographed to complement Shakespeare’s scenes and dialog—defining, cloaking, and highlighting the actors, their words, and actions.

Ten actors, playing twenty parts, entered and exited, not stage right or left, but under, and from within, the shadowed silhouettes of the trees in the Arboretum’s magnolia collection.

Staging Macbeth in the fog and the Arboretum landscape began as a wisp of an idea this past spring, ebbing and flowing like the fog itself. A committed team worked to offer the performance as a free event to the public, in keeping with the spirit of the Arnold Arboretum and the Fog x FLO exhibition. Cosponsored by the Harvard University Committee on the Arts, and supported by generous donations from friends and members, the performance also benefited from the Arboretum’s new Artist-in Residence donation fund. Staff, crew and volunteers from both the Arnold Arboretum and Actors’ Shakespeare Project, including ASP Artistic Director Chris Edwards, orchestrated the physical needs of this event, along with the lights and sounds that engaged the senses. Even a pre-show of five musicians performing on Shakespearean period instruments helped transport the audience to Shakespeare’s time.

So many helped bring spring’s seed of an idea to reality. Many thanks to the staff and friends of the Arnold Arboretum and Actors’ Shakespeare Project for bringing this seedling to perfect fruition.

From “free” to “friend”…

Established in 1911 as the Bulletin of Popular Information, Arnoldia has long been a definitive forum for conversations about temperate woody plants and their landscapes. In 2022, we rolled out a new vision for the magazine as a vigorous forum for tales of plant exploration, behind-the-scenes glimpses of botanical research, and deep dives into the history of gardens, landscapes, and science. The new Arnoldia includes poetry, visual art, and literary essays, following the human imagination wherever it entangles with trees.

It takes resources to gather and nurture these new voices, and we depend on the support of our member-subscribers to make it possible. But membership means more: by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum, you help to keep our collection vibrant and our research and educational mission active. Through the pages of Arnoldia, you can take part in the life of this free-to-all landscape whether you live next door or an ocean away.

For more tree-entangled art, science, and writing, subscribe to Arnoldia by becoming a member of the Arnold Arboretum.