UB students bring ‘Julius Caesar’ show to campus

Behind the scenes of UB Theatre & Dance’s upcoming ‘Julius Caesar’ production


William Shakespeare is no stranger on a college campus, but students are taking his work one step further with UB’s newest reimagining.

UB Theatre & Dance will present Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” at the Center for the Arts. Performances on Friday and Saturday are available to the general public.

But the production isn’t without surprises.

The historical story is reimagined for UB’s production. It takes place on a university campus and all the actors play students reading through the play. The production is the first event to take place in the CFA Mainstage from UB’s theatre department.

The stage design brings complexities and adjustments. The production team wants to make full use of the larger stage and use the venue to its fullest.

Katherine Metzler, a senior mechanical engineering major, determined whether the set designs were possible and helped make the set designer’s vision a reality.

“It’s a pretty cool set design,” Metzler said. Gina Boccolucci was the designer. So it was fun to make her vision a reality. The hanging fragments are an interesting departure from the realism of the structural part of the set.”

Danielle Rosvally, a professional fight director and stage combat professor is directing UB’s iteration of “Julius Caesar.” Rosvally is the only professor involved, allowing the students to have artistic control for how the show is run. This practice is common for UB’s theatre department.

Decisions and final determinations are solely in the students’ hands.

Emily Williams, a senior theatre major and the production’s lighting designer, appreciates how the department gives students artistic freedom.

“As a student, to be able to be the designer for a show, jumpstarts your ability to design in the professional world,” Williams said. “You’re getting the chance to work in your field, but you’re still in a setting where your professors and mentors can say, ‘Hey think about it this way’ or give you a different view. When you’re out in the real world, you’re not going to necessarily have that person there.”

Williams has been a lighting designer at UB for four years. She has worked on plays in the past but this is her first Shakespeare play. The reimagined setting brings new challenges to students who have to combine the “magical theater world and the world of a student.”

“We have a lot of different elements that are working for this,” Williams said. “But it’s still a show that I feel like students can connect to.” 

Mary Alice Groat, a junior theatre major and the costume designer, is excited to showcase Caesar’s elaborate costume changes to audiences.

“Nobody leaves the stage, which is tricky because all the storage has to be on stage,” Groat said. “The other costume pieces, all their props, everything has to be stored on set”

The sound instruments also remains on stage throughout the show.  

Graham Manske, a junior theatre major and the sound designer, personally incorporated foley sounds in the show. These effects originate from props or other devices to mimic certain sounds. 

“I built everything that isn’t the drum, tambourine, noise maker, bell, or basically anything that isn’t an actual musical instrument,” Manske said.

While this is not uncommon in theater, Manske says that it is unusual for the foley work to be done on stage instead of behind the scenes. Actors will use the various items to make sounds during the show. Manske made some of the items, like the thunder tube that is used mimic thunder.

Joseph Crumlish, a senior theatre major and the projection designer, searched through archives to find old footage to use for the projections. After reading an article from The Spectrum that had some protest pictures from the 1970s, Crumlish was inspired to use archival materials for the show.

“[My work was] a lot of research into the topics that the director was kind of interested in, which was civil disobedience, civil unrest, specifically student-type protests, slightly militaristic, but not too much, with a focus in 1960s in the United States,” Crumlish said. “The backdrop that we have is this fractal piece, and trying to map [the images] to that and also create a composition that felt good was kind of a really unique experience.”

Anastasia Wilds is an arts staff writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com