Lee Sullivan plays the lead role in Hudson Reed Ensemble’s “Macbeth,” currently being developed as a film available for release this fall after the COVID-19 pandemic dropped the curtain on live performances this summer. During the summer of 2019, the ensemble’s Shakespeare in the Park saw standing-room-only crowds on the Basalt Regional Library lawn. For years, the troupe performed the works of Shakespeare outside the Pitkin County Library.

Instead of canceling this season’s Shakespeare in the Park performances of “Macbeth” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Basalt-based Hudson Reed Ensemble will release a film this fall that is cast and shot locally, artistic director Kent Reed said Monday.

A one-minute trailer of HRE’s “MacBeth” may be seen on YouTube and represents what the stage-to-screen move the troupe — which has been doing live, local Shakespeare for the past 12 seasons — sees as right during the age of COVID-19.

“Rather than lose our planned performance of ‘Macbeth’ altogether, we felt this would be a new and exciting platform for our company to pursue,” Reed said in a prepared statement.

During an interview Monday, Reed, who also is the theatre group’s founder, said he made a request to the town of Basalt, asking if the $3,000 HRE was granted by the Basalt Public Arts Commission in 2020 can be applied to the short film rather than the original library lawn performance plan.

During May, BPAC recommended and the council approved more than $50,000 to its public arts commission for 2020 and monies were awarded to a spectrum of individual artists and groups. Basalt town planner Watkins Fulk-Gray said he had received HRE’s request Monday, but had not time to review it.

Believed to have been first performed in 1606, Shakespeare’s tragedy of the ambitious Scottish general “Macbeth” reveals the eternal verities of raw political ambition and betrayal, plus the bonus of a trio of witches to make it stage (and screen) worthy.

“Macbeth” lead Lee Sullivan said, “Playing a character like him will require getting close to my most vulnerable hopes and the waiting, the idea that with a spouse like Lady Macbeth who is able to lend focus to go forward for what is wanted. That kind of relationship is hugely motivating but the cost of their story, tragic. Too many stories like that are hard on your mind, soul and heart.”

The Hudson Reed Ensemble troupe believes it’s reasonable to think the number of viewers will be higher online than if it could accommodate performances outside the library. The cast includes: Sullivan, Morgan Walsh, Graham Northrup (director and film editor), Chris Wheatley, Franz Alderfer, Paige Northrup, Talulah Marolt and Meredith Castor. Reed directs and Laurie Clemens Maier is the assistant. 

Reed said during filming, the actors and crew were conscious to respect social distancing. Locations are in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“We were very careful. All of the filming has been outside. We socially distanced as much as could. There is one scene where Lee and Graham are within close proximity. If not 6 feet it’s 5 feet.”

Sullivan said Monday of his total immersion into the performance and character, as well as its relevance today: “Some men are spontaneous, some ponder continuously. Times of life which are critical to hopes and dreams which when presented or offered can supplant the normal path for want to reach the goal. Virtue turns to even killer instinct to serve ambition.

“What feels like our life being robbed from us is no more than what Macbeth resolves to call ‘even-handed justice.’ Being humble enough to call it that should not even come close to exonerate his … conscious-riddled pride and esteem-addled path.”

The release date is expected in late October.


Testing the waters

HRE first dipped its toes into filmmaking a few years ago with “Aspen Soap,” which it produced in webcasts after “handling rehearsals and live performance got to be too much,” Reed said. The Black Box in Aspen was among the venues HRE used.

“It gave the confidence and idea to ‘let’s just make a film of ‘Macbeth’” after Reed recognized COVID-19 would extinguish performances on the grass this summer.

Adding insult to injury was HRE’s 2019 debut season in Basalt, “a success beyond my wildest dreams. Standing-room-only for every performance,” he said. “Hopefully the film can tide us over until next summer when we can be back live.”

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Madeleine Osberger is interim editor of the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Madski99