Orion Couling’s latest offering from E.D.G.E. Theater is returning to the stage and is organizing a tour for the road. I recently had a chance to interview President and Artistic Director Orion Couling about his latest epic.
“The show really is MacBeth, but set in the Star Wars universe. So, all of the magic, betrayal, hauntings and battle are there,” Orion said about the overall plot of McSith. For example, “Ross and Lennox, two knights in the original are two Jedis in our production” that “you might see in the Old Republic,” Orion added. The stage presence offers “a lot of the visuals [that] are Star Wars related.”
“I was drawn by the stark similarities in the two stories. MacBeth and Anakin particularly,” Orion said. Orion said viewers can expect them to “start out in grace and fall from it doing unspeakable damage.” The performance offers three dead, force-using ghosts to emphasize the “strike me down you’ll make me more powerful” theme in both sagas.
Orion’s intro into Star Wars began when he first saw “Empires Strikes Back” in 1980. From there, Orion began a “very spiritual journey with the concept of Jedi.” He found he was using Star wars in nearly every facet of his life. As a young boy, he could often be found “with a stick in the backwoods and books about Knights from King Arthur strewn about.” Later on in life, he would see the lessons from his martial arts practice and from studies of the Tao and the Bushido reflected in the story of Star Wars. He began adapting his learnings to teach everyone from at risk inner city youth, to children with special needs, to his Midwest nerd communities. He found the basic philosophy of the Jedi held true to many aspects in life, “A life of service to a higher cause.”
Orion’s first experience with Shakespeare’s MacBeth did not come until he was in high school when, as an extension of his obsession with sword play, he “read it voraciously along with other fight heavy Shakespeare plays.”
The background of the troupe contain multiple honest to goodness Shakespeare experts that are also mostly educators. The troupe also holds a lot of motion capture and professional stunt people. Orion also said, “Some of our people were in the most recent Mortal Kombat games and Injustice. E.D.G.E. is the ideal company to be doing this kind of work.”
With youth, Orion has seen a “very strong cultural moratorium on talking about violence.” Orion offers workshops which teach within the tight controls of stage combat, allowing adolescents to go through the feelings of wrath, hate, fear and command as characters.” Classes are broken down to certain age groups: 4-6 years olds, 7-10, Middle school, high school and adults.
When he was younger, Orion grew up in a violent school situation. Like many youth he struggled with self esteem and self image. Later on, Orion became an activist. “Working with good people for a good cause created a strength in me I had never known,” Orion said. Through his work, Orion discovered an incredible burst of energy was created by doing historical demonstrations for high schools and middle schools. He then created E.D.G.E, an assembly and workshop program. After several years and over 200 schools, camps and churches, Orion brought E.D.G.E. to Chicago.
“We use almost exclusively ultra sabers,” Orion said. They reportedly cost between $200-$700. “Oh man, they are awesome,” Orion added. In Orion’s opinion, “nothing lasts longer, looks better, and (Ultra Sabers) are brighter.” Orion is still really amused by people who are shocked that the light sabers aren’t ‘real.’
It was interesting to hear Orion talk of the differences of light sabers in comparison to real swords. He said, “A New Hope=Single sword, Empire=Broadsword, Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens are hybrids of Katana and Broadsword. The prequels are almost entirely Wushu broadsword.”
Orion is just building the tour and he plans to “go any where in the nation.” He is already planning to be at Alma College in Alma, Michigan as part of a convention on February 6. But, his dream is to take MacSith to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Orion hopes to realize that dream in two years.