Macbeth In Stride Resource Guide

NOV 3, 2021

Whitney White sings into a microphone in front of a glittering silver background.

Macbeth In Stride examines what it means to be an ambitious Black woman through the lens of one of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters. The first of Whitney White’s five-part series commissioned by A.R.T. excavating the women from Shakespeare’s canon, the production uses live pop, rock, gospel and R&B to trace the fatalistic arc of Lady Macbeth while lifting up contemporary Black female power, femininity, and desire.

This Resource Guide is a compilation of resources to aid educators in exploring the ideas that Macbeth In Stride surfaces. Topics in this guide include the dynamics of ambition, love, and gender that appear in Shakespeare’s plays, and adaptation approaches that promote accessibility and belonging. Resources are accompanied by brief summaries and discussion questions for further exploration.

Section epigraphs are taken from A.R.T.’s interview with White, Art Not Without Ambition.

Learn More about the Production

Macbeth Summary

Macbeth In Stride follows Lady Macbeth as she progresses through the events of Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Macbeth. A brief summary of the events of Macbeth can be found from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website, along with character summaries and other supporting material. While knowing all the details of the original play is not necessary to enjoy or understand Macbeth In Stride, one will gain a much deeper understanding of White’s theatrical analysis if one is familiar with its context, including Lady Macbeth, her relationship with Macbeth, and her role in the main events of the play, especially the murder of King Duncan and her own suicide.

Read a Summary

Music & Shakespeare

There’s something about live music that has always felt liberating to me. Music has no prejudice.


Music has this incredible way of making people a people.

Macbeth In Stride balances the elements of a rock concert and traditional play. In her reasoning for this approach to a production, White cites her background as a singer influencing her natural discovery of music within the text, as well as the effect of music to make a production of Shakespeare that any person could hear and understand. The resources below are meant to aid educators in their instruction investigating the relationship between music and Shakespeare.


Discussion Points

  • How might music be more widely understood than Shakespeare’s language? How could this be seen as making “people a people,” as White mentions?
  • How could a song communicate the same story and themes as a scene in the play?
  • What songs in your life do you relate to at different times? Why?

Women in Shakespeare

‘This lady isn’t evil, she’s just ambitious.’… These concerts take a look at what happens when women and the feminine are willing to fight for what they want.


I also identify with the theme of love and competition within a relationship: how things get crunchy when you dare to aspire for more than your partner, or when your partner gets you in a sticky situation and you have to solve it.

Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Through Macbeth In Stride, White investigates the complex dynamics of how ambition and competition inform and change the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, who, after all, are husband and wife. The following resources are meant to aid in understanding how the themes in Macbeth In Stride are situated in the rest of Shakespeare’s portfolio, as well as historical and contemporary understandings of women’s roles in society.



Macbeth In Stride references other Shakespearean women (Emilia, Cleopatra, Ophelia, and Juliet) who undergo similar tragic ends as a consequence of pursuing their desires or ambitions. CliffNotes has brief character analyses, along with a great deal of other literacy education support.

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Macbeth In Stride references other Shakespearean women (Emilia, Cleopatra, Ophelia, and Juliet) who undergo similar tragic ends as a consequence of pursuing their desires or ambitions. CliffNotes has brief character analyses, along with a great deal of other literacy education support.

Visit Website


A.R.T. Not Without Ambition

Whitney White spoke with writers and educators Ramie Targoff and Stephen Greenblatt about Macbeth In Stride in a conversation broadly centered on Shakespeare, theater in times of plague, and women in Shakespeare’s era.

Watch guide:

  • 3:00: What is the significance of the 1603 London plague in Macbeth?
  • 9:55: Love and ambition in Macbeth
  • 21:40: How does music show up in Macbeth In Stride?
  • 24:30: Whitney’s process in developing character of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth In Stride
  • 34:15: What is the role of the witches?
  • 38:20: Is Lady Macbeth ambitious for herself or her husband?
  • 43:30: How are the women in Shakespeare’s comedies treated differently?
  • 53:00: How does Whitney’s character track through the cycle of the 5 part series?

Discussion Points

  • Why might Shakespeare’s ambitious women face these consequences? Think about the time that he lived in.
  • Name a movie or TV show in which a female character is forced to choose between a relationship and a career/other ambition. Are male characters put in similar dilemmas quite as often? Do they face the same consequences when they choose ambition?
  • Can you think of examples when you have seen a woman (yourself, if you identify that way, or another), discouraged from ambition? How does such a thing show up in our daily lives?
  • Have you ever had to choose between love and ambition/career? What was it like? How did you end up making your decision, and what were the consequences?
Whitney White raising her hand singing while Phoenix Best, Reggie D. White, and Kira Sarai Helper sing behind her.
The company of Macbeth In Stride spread out on the sage, with the band in the back.

Audience Interaction & Catharsis

When I think about catharsis, I think about asking the audience, ‘Do you feel anything? Are you remembering anything? When you see this, when you hear this music, when you smell this, when you feel this rhythm, does it take you somewhere? Do you feel relieved?’


I think music facilitates catharsis…if the story doesn’t get you, I hope the music will. And hearing it out of a different body—a Black female body—might shake something loose in you.

By integrating vernacular English and direct conversations with the audience, Macbeth In Stride seeks to facilitate a relationship between performers and audience members. The following resources provide more context on this idea.


Discussion Points

  • How might music facilitate catharsis—or bring about an emotional response in the audience—in ways words cant?
  • How do you think White’s breaking of the fourth wall in Macbeth In Stride contributes to the relationship she hopes to develop with the audience?
  • When have you felt very emotionally moved by literature (book, play, film, etc)? What caused that catharsis?

Black Performers in Shakespeare

She sounds like a conflicted woman who has desire, and I just identified with that, and I’m going to claim it as mine so that other people like me can also claim these stories as theirs.


Often I would see these great plays live, and these productions wouldn’t represent my experience or even a world I recognized…Combining Shakespeare with rock also felt like a way to make a production of Shakespeare that any person could hear and understand.

Characters specifically identified as Black are rare in Shakespeare’s plays, save for the famous exception of Othello. Productions have historically cast white performers to play most major roles. White believes that nonetheless, people of many different backgrounds can relate to Shakespeare’s characters, and in Macbeth In Stride, this comes out in her relationship with Lady Macbeth. The resources below provide more information on the presence of Black artists in productions of Shakespeare’s plays.


Black Actors on Shakespeare

Nashville Shakespeare Festival held a panel of Black creators who discussed how Shakespeare shows up among Black communities, their personal feelings and experiences with the subject, and visions of what is possible for Shakespeare.

Discussion Points

  • How does seeing a person on stage or screen who shares an aspect of your identity affect your experience?
  • Why might Black actors and communities feel unrepresented in some Shakespeare productions?
  • How does the portrayal of a character by a Black actor change the play—if at all?

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