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'Macbeth' Plays Military Bases

As part of its groundbreaking effort to bring Shakespeare to underserved communities -- including the military -- the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, the military services, and Arts Midwest, will launch the Shakespeare in American Communities military base tour of "Macbeth" on Fri., Sept. 10, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), through a $1 million grant from the Department of Defense, will mount the production. The tour will include 13 military bases nationwide. Along with six other well-respected theatre companies, ASF was selected for the touring program because of its reputation for high-quality productions of Shakespeare.

The Shakespeare in American Communities initiative will continue to tour schools (targeting up to 1 million students) along with small and midsize communities throughout the country that have not traditionally been exposed to theatre.

In a prepared statement, NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said, "If we are truly going to fulfill our charge of bringing art of undisputable excellence to all Americans, we have to reach into communities where we've never gone before."

In the same statement, ASF's artistic director, Kent Thompson, talked about the relevance of "Macbeth" for military audiences: " 'Macbeth' deals with the issues confronting military leadership today -- what happens when the greatest warrior a country has decides he will be king at any price. It's also a fascinating study in the self-creation of a tyrant. It suggests that moral principles must never be compromised for power or ambition."

Military personnel and their families are invited to attend the performances free of charge.

Arts Midwest, a regional arts organization based in Minneapolis, administers the Shakespeare initiative, with additional support provided by the Sallie Mae Fund.

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