Bostonia feature: Five Questions for Broadway Producer Fred Zollo
Tony Award–winning alum: new version of Macbeth “a production for its time”
This story was first published in Bostonia on March 25, 2022. By Mara Sassoon
Macbeth is having a moment. In December, Joel Coen released The Tragedy of Macbeth, a film based on the play about the dark side of ambition and power, starring Denzel Washington (nominated for a 2022 Academy Award) as Lord Macbeth and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth. Last fall, the Almeida Theatre in London staged a revival of the play with Saoirse Ronan. And on March 29, 2022, a new production of Macbeth,directed by Sam Gold and starring James Bond’s Daniel Craig as Macbeth and Loving’sRuth Negga as Lady Macbeth, will premiere at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway.
The newest staging is coproduced by Fred Zollo (CAS’75), a seven-time Tony winner, and Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, heads of Eon Productions, the company that produces the James Bond films. The play will run through July 10, 2022.
Zollo has produced more than 100 plays, as well as the Oscar-nominated films Mississippi Burning and Quiz Show. He spoke with Bostonia about why the timing is right for the new production, how to make theater more progressive and accessible, and the perspective he’s gained over his more than 40-year career.
WITH FRED ZOLLO
Bostonia: Why is this play right for Broadway right now?
Zollo: It’s been a very busy few months for the play. Joel Coen recently did a film with the great Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington, and that was terrific. And there was a revival with Saoirse Ronan at the Almeida in London. That’s three significant productions, including the one we’re doing. The timing just felt right. It’s a very modern production, and we have a wonderful, diverse cast. The casting transcends race and gender. I think it’s a production for its time. As many times as the play has been done, I don’t think it’s ever been done in this way. It’s sexy, it’s dangerous—it’s got sword fights. In the end, I think it’s a good moral story where evil is punished, and isn’t that refreshing, when evil is punished? I think it’s going to have a level of originality that is immensely exciting.
Bostonia: Tell us more about the play’s casting.
Zollo: First of all, I think it’s time the theater and film industries get with the program and realize that there are all sorts of truly brilliant actors out there who can play any role. It’s taken us a very long time—way too long—but we are finally starting to see productions taking this view. We are finally accepting that, and having done this for a very long time, that’s so refreshing. Sam Gold did Othello with David Oyelowo and Daniel [Craig], and his casting was color-blind and included people with disabilities. Great actors come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, and colors. Sam also did a production of Glass Menagerie, and the actress who played Laura [Madison Ferris, who has muscular dystrophy] was in a wheelchair.
The fact that we’re opening the door to writers, actors, and artists from everywhere—it only enriches the theater. Sam shows a commitment to this sort of humanity, and isn’t that what the theater is supposed to be about? And in the end, isn’t that what this play really is about? It’s about the reclamation of humanity. It’s doing something to combat evil. I mean, we’re witnessing evil on the world stage. In this play, in the end, the Macbeths get their comeuppance, and thank goodness. I think it’s a great lesson for people.