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UST Drama Alumnus Returns to Direct Macbeth

When Joey Milillo agreed to direct the University of St. Thomas’ fall production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, he needed no time to familiarize himself with the Jones Theater stage. Nearly seven years after earning a degree in drama from UST, Milillo says he could still find his way around Jones Theater with his eyes closed. 

“I feel this wonderful sense of home in directing here,” Milillo said. “It’s like settling back into your old armchair – it’s warm and comforting; you know it and it knows you.”  

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a landscape of beautiful rhythmic language and rich complex imagery. The character Macbeth has contemporary relevance that illustrates the deepest and darkest of human realities. The situations, characters, and idioms of Shakespeare’s play raise questions with which we struggle every day in theory and in practice.

Macbeth is the mirror that connects the past and present and reflects the horrific consequences of greed, selfish ambition and autonomous power,” Milillo said. “By staging this timeless text, the Drama Program at UST hopes to be just such a mirror – one in which our culture can see itself both for what it is and what it should be.”

Milillo has stayed close to his UST theatre roots. This marks his second return to the UST stage since he graduated in 2003.  He directed Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, at UST in 2006. He also co-founded the Town Center Theatre in the Woodlands with fellow UST alumni Chris Tennison and Aaron Stryk. Milillo manages to make time for theater projects in both the Woodlands and at UST while holding a full-time position as the programs manager for the Bayou Bend Collections and Gardens.

A graduate of Dickinson High School and current Spring area resident, Milillo said he was unfamiliar with UST before his father introduced him to the school. After applying to several state universities, Milillo said he chose UST because students in the Drama Program graduate with an extraordinary amount of practical experience.

“You get here and they put you to work,” Milillo said. “I was on stage four times my freshman year, and that is rare for freshmen at other universities. Over the course of my time at UST, I also designed the costumes and lighting for several shows. I directed one short play for directing class and was able to direct a full-length show as an independent study.”

Milillo’s two professional endeavors frequently overlap. Learning about the decorative arts and attention to historical accuracy at Bayou Bend has made Milillo more aware of set designs details.

Now I can’t see a production of 1776 anymore without worrying if all the chairs are going to be Rococo,” he said. “But this production of  Macbeth is what I call ‘period muted.’ The play is historical but also flexible. It takes place in medieval Scotland, but you can’t tell whether it’s 950 or 1450 A.D. We want the audience to have a good time. We are running this show over Halloween, and I want it to feel like a really good ghost story with a lot of action. The story is so universal; so many lessons can be derived from these grand tragedies. Despite the fact that it is about Scottish nobles, you could draw business ethics allegories or just ideas about friendship and leadership.”

Macbeth will be performed at 8 p.m. Oct. 20- 23, 28- 30 and Nov. 4- 6 on the second floor of Jones Theater, 3910 Yoakum. Tickets are $5 for UST students, faculty or staff; $10 for non-UST students or senior and $15 for the general public.