Life + Arts Theater

‘What’s done is done’ for UH theater alumna


Twelve-time Shakespeare veteran Tracie Thomason will portray Lady Macbeth for the first time at the end of July. | Courtesy of Tracie Thomason

On any given night, this alumna’s to-do list seems daunting.

But in between Starbucks runs, she’s on the stage convincing her husband to commit murder, nervously hosting drugged banquets and dealing  with that recently-developed sleepwalking habit.

But it’s inevitable: eventually, UH alumna Tracie Thomason will be sleepwalking — before hundreds.

In fact, Thomason, alongside ghosts, kings and babbling witches, will all present themselves at the 41st Houston Shakespeare Festival from July 31 to Aug. 9.

Thomason, will alternate performances as Lady Macbeth in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and the supporting role of Nerissa in “The Merchant of Venice.”

“I like to say Shakespeare was my first love,” Thomason said. “The theater has always been a magical place for me.”

Thomason transferred to UH in 2007, where she found herself amidst faculty titans like Jim Johnson and Sara Becker, whom she credits for much of her success. But it didn’t hurt that she also happened upon the theater school in concurrence with Jack Young, this year’s director of “Macbeth.”

“If I know Jack, our production will be fast and furious,” Thomason said. “Because I was his student, we have a common vocabulary, and that will be beneficial in rehearsal. I’m really looking forward to diving in.”

And, while she’s familiar with the director, she knows Shakespeare even better. Having acted in 12 Shakespeare productions, she’s already portrayed Portia in “The Merchant of Venice” and several other roles like the famed Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and Rosalind in “As You Like It” at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia.

Come fall, she’s bound for The Juilliard School in New York.  The move to the Big Apple is also a move to the big stage, where she anticipates plenty more Shakespearian involvement.

For now, Tracie has the task of rotating between Lady Macbeth, or “Lady M,” as she dubs her character, and the supporting Nerissa, a confidante to the heroine Portia in “The Merchant of Venice.”

“They actually complement each other,” Thomason said. “Nerissa will be quite fun, and there will be comedy. Then, Lady M will obviously be more tragic and challenging. It’s a lovely balance that will keep me sane.”

Since it’s her first involvement in a “Macbeth” production, she considers herself “fresh blood.” She’s less familiar with Tiger Reel, the director of “The Merchant of Venice,” but she is excited for his modern take on the classic comedy, which is a romance game show à la “The Bachelorette.”

To her, it seems acting is about the collision of ideas, both old and new.

“Part of the reason I do Shakespeare is because it is an investigation,” Thomason said. “I look for clues and insights into the playwright’s mind. I also get to bring my own humanity and complexity to the characters and fuse with these characters on stage.”

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