A red logo within a black background reads "Macbeth" with a crown sitting atop the words.

Lisa Condit spoke with Macbeth cast members Dakota Schantz and Nicole Sarmiento about The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory’s Youth Acting Company, the upcoming performances, their history with theater and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Lisa: Thank you all for listening! This is Lisa Condit with The Hanover Theatre, and we are talking today with Dakota Schantz and Nicole Sarmiento. They are a part of the THTC Youth Acting Company presenting Macbeth at the BrickBox on Friday, February 25 – Sunday, February 27. Welcome to the show!

Dakota: Hello!

Nicole: Hi!

Lisa: Dakota and Nicole, you are both part of our Youth Acting Company. That is such a cool program and I know people would love to hear more about it. Dakota, could you take a minute and introduce yourself to our listeners? Tell them who you are, where you’re from, what role you’re playing and how you got here.

Dakota: Absolutely. Hi everybody! My name is Dakota Schantz and I’m from Sturbridge, Massachusetts. I’m currently playing Banqua in Macbeth. It’s traditionally Banquo and traditionally played by a boy, but I’m very fortunate to have it had been rewritten for me. This is my first year in the Youth Acting Company and I’m very excited for everything that’s been going on.

The logo for THTC Youth Acting Company's production of Macbeth. It features a crown with the word MACBETH below it, all in red on a black background.
THTC Youth Acting Company’s production of Macbeth

Lisa: That’s awesome, Dakota. How about you, Nicole?

Nicole: Hi, my name is Nicole Sarmiento and I am from Worcester, Massachusetts. I’m playing Lennox in Macbeth, which is also traditionally a male role but was written as a female role for this version.

Lisa: I love that you both touch on some of the roles and how Liv Scanlon, the director, has really been able to open it up, and she started this with some of her other productions. Nicole, why drew you to the Youth Acting Company and what excites you about the role you’re playing?

Nicole: This is my third year in the Youth Acting Company and I joined the first year it started, which was three years ago. It was a very experimental process because it was the first time doing it and it’s been really nice to see it grow. We started with eight people the first year and this year we have 22, so that’s been a big change. We’re still trying to figure out the process every year, and Liv has always been really cool with casting roles. She’s been doing a lot of Shakespeare plays; the first year we did Romeo & Juliet and I got casted as Romeo, which was very cool. Last year we did Julius Caesar and I played Mark Antony, and this year is Macbeth and I’m playing Lennox. I’m excited for this role because it’s the first one out of the three that I’ve done that I get to femininely, which is really cool. [Liv] is incorporating that into the costumes and what we say. I’m really excited for the show because it’s the closest thing to devised theatre that I’ve ever done before. We’re not doing the traditional Shakespearean costumes, it’s a very monotone setting that we’re doing with a big ensemble piece, which is really cool.

Liv is a very experimental director. She really wants to hear what we think and how we feel about the things we do on stage. A lot of it is trial and error, which is something that a lot of directors that I’ve worked with don’t do. It’s been a really cool process in that we all get to figure out how we’re going to do the show together.

Nicole Sarmiento

Lisa: That is great! Dakota, tell us a little bit about Macbeth. I know that this is an adaptation, it’s not the full Macbeth that people might think of when they think of traditional Shakespeare. For people who might not be familiar, what can they expect? What’s the story about?

Dakota: It’s very much about Macbeth’s internal conflict, he is surrounded by a lot of people who he has been in the war that they just came out of. The show opens up with them finishing a huge battle. They’ve defeated the Thane of Glamis, and he’s excited to return to his homelife. He finds out that Malcolm has been crowned the future king of Scotland and he becomes jealous. He battles this internal conflict of jealousy and the people around him, so he plans murders. There’s a lot of betrayal and stage combat in this show, which is amazing. It’s really cool to see his journey throughout the show, and people discover his intentions. He masks a lot of his feelings at the beginning and his plans become unraveled as the show deepens.

Lisa: Were you interested in Shakespeare before you started getting involved with these productions and has this changed the way you think about Shakespeare? Just curious!

THTC acting company students are sitting in the BrickBox seats, looking over their scripts before rehearsal.
THTC Youth Acting Company’s Macbeth cast preparing for dress rehearsal

Dakota: Previous to this year, I had only done some isolated Shakespeare work. I had done a few monologues here and there, isolated from the show that it had been from, and your typical high school English class when you read some work for the curriculum. Being exposed lightly to that kind of got me interested, but I didn’t know how to do it well because I had never been able to do it in a theatrical setting before. This past fall, I actually enrolled in the Shakespeare: Page to Stage class at The Hanover Theatre Conservatory and I absolutely loved it. We got to read a play and really dive into the character development and analyze people’s motives and objectives which was absolutely incredible going into this production. It just got me so much more excited to do it, and this is my first Shakespeare show. I’m absolutely in love with it and it’s been a wonderful challenge.

Lisa: That’s so excellent! How did you get involved in theatre even before the Youth Acting Company? What sparked your interest?

Dakota: I have been doing theater almost all my life. I think at the age of four, my mom took me to go see some type of play and I really waned to do it, but I was so young. Kids go through some phases, so [my mom] was like, “Once you enter kindergarten, we’ll revisit the conversation and if you’re still interested, we’ll talk about it then.” So, I brought it up once I entered kindergarten and luckily, there was a repertory theater in my town called Stageloft. I was able to do a bunch of shows growing up there for their small black box that seated about 150 people, and I was very fortunate to have access to that in my small town. Eventually, I got as much as I possibly could from that location, and I enrolled in the Pre-Teen Youth Summer Program at The Hanover Theatre Conservatory in 2016 with Nicole, actually! That was the first year that I was able to do something at The Hanover. I’ve been taking classes there ever since and been doing a bunch of shows with them.

I’m so grateful for the journey and the fact that they helped me curate and develop my own education and theatrical development.

Dakota Schantz

Lisa: That’s great. How about you, Nicole? I know that you’ve been involved with The Hanover Theatre Conservatory and you said it’s your third year in the Youth Acting Company. How did you get “the bug?”

Nicole: I started dancing when I was four. Actually, the first stage I ever danced on was The Hanover Theatre because that’s where the recitals would take place. I started at the Charlotte Klein Dance Centers and I kept going with dance. Eventually, my mom put me in vocal lessons and acting lessons when I was around seven. That’s where I started to get the jive of doing all three together. Like Dakota said, I joined the first junior YSP in the summer when the Conservatory first opened. From then on, I’ve also been taking classes and I’ve always been local and doing things in Worcester. I used to do more film work in Boston and in New York, but I realized that theatre was the thing for me a lot more than film, so I’m glad to have found that.

THTC acting company students are lined up on the BrickBox stage, looking to director Livy Scanlon.
THTC Youth Acting Company’s Macbeth cast and director Livy Scanlon

Lisa: I’m curious because you’re both students and you’re both in the middle of this journey. You both started at pretty young ages, but what about peers who may not have any previous experience? Any words of wisdom or pieces of advice that you would give to somebody asking you what would be the most important thing for them to focus on or keep in mind?

Nicole: It’s never too late to start. It’s a very opening environment. I think wherever you go, you find really special people doing it.

Lisa: It’s true. It’s one of the reasons we all love working here, too! How about you, Dakota?

Dakota: I completely agree with Nicole. It’s absolutely never too late to start. This is an industry and art form that everybody develops at their own time. I know it’s so much easier to say than it is to carry out, but you can’t compare yourself to other people because everybody is on their own path, everybody is on their own journey and doing it on their own time. If you really love it and you want to get better and you want to keep doing it, you’ve got to do it for yourself. The Hanover Theatre is a great place to pick up anything because they have classes from beginner to advanced and for all ages – younger levels, high school level, and adult level.

It’s absolutely never too late to start. This is an industry and art form where everybody develops in their own time

Dakota Schantz

Lisa: I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you had to pick one scene that you really love in this production and that you want audiences to look for, what would it be?

Nicole: That’s hard!

Lisa: I know, I know. You can give me a couple if it’s too hard to think of just one.

Nicole: Thinking of the order of the show, my first favorite scene comes when Macbeth realizes that he may be king in the future. It’s his first soliloquy to the audience and he’s center stage by himself. It’s not a super long monologue but it’s where he first transitions from being this good and loyal soldier to the king, from starting to think about his ambitions and what he wants for himself. He’s in the center and everyone in the show is surrounding him and we’re in this witchy pose. I’ve always loved that moment because it’s such a big moment for that character. Right after he’s done, he talks to the murderers that eventually kill a lot of people for him. I think it’s a really big moment and I really enjoy it because it involves everyone.

Lisa: I can’t wait to see that. What about you, Dakota?

Dakota: I have to say is all of the stage combat scenes in the show. They’re so well-choreographed and just so much fun. I’ve never, ever had the opportunity to participate in stage combat on stage before and it’s been so much fun. It’s so cool to watch, too.

Lisa: That sounds amazing. I am so looking forward to seeing you too in action! Tickets are still available! Visit TheHanoverTheatre.org or contact the Box Office at 877.571.SHOW (7469) for more information.