The Theatre Deparment updates a thousand-year-old tale of tyranny by switching gender roles and arming Roman soliders with machine guns
By Nashe Harley
Crowds of people rush on stage screaming “Hail Caesar!” in support of the first female president. Armed soldiers flank her as she walks on stage. Soon a riot begins.
William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, directed by Chris Cannon, is a modernized and condensed version of the original, but with a twist — Caesar and many of the main characters are women.
Changing the dynamic and the relationships by adjusting gender roles makes the 400-year-old drama more relevant today, Cannon said.
“It’s fiction obviously but it’s not so farfetched. It’s when things are so desperate that people are willing to accept things they normally wouldn’t accept. Like giving up their freedom for whatever or whoever gives them food,” Cannon said.
America burns in the wake of a major financial collapse. A new class system emerges. Those without money are left with no food, jobs or basic resources. Caesar is elected to office but fails to gain the Senate’s support. In a desperate attempt to improve the economy, the Supreme Court grants her absolute authority.
With influential figureheads being portrayed by females, politics and gender roles are explored in a way that mimics the issues women face in current society. Politicians scheming to overthrow Caesar seem more upset about having a woman in power than being under the control of a dictator.
“When you see it traditionally you don’t really make that connection. But, in a context that we can see and understand, all of a sudden the play takes on a new life,” Cannon said.
The show opens with documentary-style footage revealing the backstory while setting the scene. Cast members worked together to create the characters’ backstory.
Actors and actresses had to keep in mind the historic context but update their mannerisms and situations to keep up with modern times. On stage, their enthusiasm and dedication helps the characters come to life.
“We’ve gotten a lot of energy, a lot of interest from the students. I don’t think they’re interested in it because it’s Shakespeare but it’s Shakespeare with a twist. It’s something we can identify with,” Cannon said.
The play runs for two weekends starting Oct. 3 to Oct. 4 and again Oct. 10 to Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
By Haide Hernandez
Do-it-yourself is the costume theme for the cast of Julius Caesar as the cast dons items out of their closets
Carmen Munoz, who plays Julius Caesar in the gender-bending adaptation, will look more like a president than an emperor on opening night.
The Theatre Department ditched the Ancient Romans’ trademark togas and tanned goatskin sandals in favor of denim jeans and shirts directly from the casts’ closets.
Budget restraints and the modernizing of William Shakespeare’s tragedy fostered the department’s do-it-yourself approach.
Instead of renting costumes, or tailoring elaborate designs, the actors will be wearing street clothes. The student actors are also doing their own hair and makeup.
By Matthew Salzer
The tragedy portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against the Roman dictator, his assassination and the defeat of the conspirators at the Battle of Philippi
The Theatre Department’s version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is significant because it switches gender roles while modernizing the setting, English professor and Shakespearean expert Kathy Patterson said.
“I wanted to explore what would happen if we — America — were in the same situation as Rome during the time of Julius Caesar,” said Chris Cannon, director and assistant drama professor.
The play is thought to be one of the first performed in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London around the early 1600s.
After a brief revival during the same century, it went unperformed for almost two centuries, Cannon said.
Actor and later Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth appeared in a rendition in 1864 during a tumultuous time in U.S history that coincided with the revival of the drama, Patterson says.
Wardrobe in a 1937 Orson Wells-produced performance was reminiscent of the Nazi German and Fascist Italy uniforms, and in a later version Denzel Washington played Brutus.
Marlon Brando played Marc Antony in a 1953 theatrical release, while three notable made-for-TV adaptations were released between the 1970s and 2012, the last by the Royal Shakespeare Company and broadcast on BBC, Cannon said.