‘Julius Caesar’ opens on the CFA Mainstage
UB’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ presents updated look at the Shakespearean tragedy
UB’s production of “Julius Caesar” took a modern twist on the classic Shakespearean play.
The production, which ran from Friday to Saturday at the Center for the Arts Mainstage, changed the play’s ancient Roman setting to a college campus. The actors performed as university students who are reading through the play.
“Julius Caesar” tells the story of the fall of the Roman Republic and the death of the play’s titular character. Conspirators convince Caesar’s friend Brutus to join in their assassination attempt to prevent Caesar from gaining more power. The group kills Caesar on the Ides of March, resulting in a war with Caesar’s supporter, Mark Antony.
The production takes place at a university, so Danielle Rosvally, the director and professional fight director, wanted to figure out a way to portray violent scenes without promoting violence on campus.
The actors, to show Caesar’s death without showcasing violence, dipped their hands into a bucket of fake blood and stained his scarf. The red handprints dirtying the scarf symbolized Caesar’s death without an aggressive encounter.
Cassius and Brutus, instead of stabbing themselves as they do in the original play, stab 12-by-12 frames covered with vellum. This allows the actors to show the action of stabbing without actually stabbing themselves.
Audience members said they appreciated the inventive fight scenes. Irem Ersan, a junior theater performance and psychology major, thought that the fight scenes were well-excecuted.
“The fight choreography looked really realistic,” Ersan said. “Especially [the scene] when they dragged people on the floor. It was super realistic and my favorite part of the show.”
The play was edited down to a 90-minute version, with no intermission.
Emily Bassett, a junior theatre major and the actor who played assassin Casca, said the shortened script made the actors aware of the parts that have been taken out.
“It was cut wonderfully, everything made sense,” Bassett said. “But there’s still those small things that aren’t in there that we have to be mindful of. We have to make sure that we’re aware of what’s not in the script, and that we can bring that depth to it as well.”
The actors didn’t use microphones, so they had to project the Shakespearean language to the audience. Bassett said that the large space made this even more of a challenge, especially since this is the first time the UB Theatre Department is performing in the Mainstage Theatre.
“So, [the language] combined with the very large space we were in, created a challenge, but it was a challenge that everyone in the ensemble took in stride,” Bassett said. “Because the language is so important, [the main focus was] making sure that we were heard and most importantly, understood.”
The show was a success, according to Bassett. While she wishes that the crew had more time to work in the large space, she understands that the Mainstage Theatre has been “graciously gifted” to them.
“We can sit back from it and honestly say that we did a good job,” Bassett said. “I was so impressed by what some of my classmates did, and the work that they put out. … I think it was a great run, and I’m just so proud of everyone.”
The play focuses on corruption in politics and government and Bassett said that it is important to think about the world we live in.
“Each of us had something that we were thinking of when we went into this process of like ‘what political thing are we thinking of,’” Bassett said. “Mine was the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and there were others whose were much more recent or long, long ago, some that were very, very personal and close to them. And I think that when you make art, you have to think about the effects that it’s going to have. I think that this production did that and took that in stride, and I hope made an impact.”
Anna Seidl, a sophomore theater and psychology double major, played Julius Caesar and had her own perspective on the importance of the play.
“Many people, when they look at the show they say, ‘Oh Caesar was a tyrant and then this is why he got what he deserved.’ But, when you actually really look at the text, Brutus and Cassius don’t have a real reasoning, they just say he was ‘ambitious’” Seidl said. “So, it’s talking about when people [lie or gossip] you cannot believe it and you need to take your own perspective and you need to look at what is right.”
Julianna Tracey and Anastasia Wilds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org