Sections

A history of violence: A bare-bones ‘Julius Caesar’ looks at brutality

Getting to the point: Actors Stephen Michael Spencer and Jordan Barbour rehearse their fighting moves for the bloody upcoming production of “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, opening on March 17.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:

Friends, Romans, Brooklynites — lend us your ears!

A new production of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” offers the ever-timely advice that stabbing your political opponents may not be the best way to get what you want. The modern-dress staging of the more-than-400-year-old play, which starts its run at Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Fort Greene on March 17 — just after the ominous ides of March — considers the social cost of leaders who live by the sword, according to its director.

“The act of violence, that was an attempt to protect Rome and their Republic and their ideals, set in motion a civil war that destroys everything they were fighting for — that’s why I really think about the play as a meditation on the cost of governing through violence” said Shana Cooper.

The five-act play, likely written in 1599, follows the downfall of Roman ruler Julius Caesar, whose victory in a civil war wins him the love of Rome’s citizens, who offer him unlimited political power for life. But before Casear can accept that offer, a group of conspirators — led by his close friend, Brutus — assassinate him, plunging Rome into yet another civil war.

The director emphasizes the effects of violence through the play’s climactic battle scene, where she adds martial arts and dance moves to Shakespeare’s intimate conversations between soldiers. The movements allow the performers to more fully express the trauma and tragedy of fighting in battle, Cooper said.

“It felt useful to strip away Shakespeare’s language that is trying to conjure the civil war and replace it with a visceral, physical storytelling of war,” she said.

The show runner also added some literally haunting appearances from Caesar after his death, with his ghost looming over multiple moments of the production in order to emphasize his absence, she said.

“We’ve created a couple moments where he, I think in quite a disturbing way, appears out of nowhere and then disappears really quickly — all through simple theater magic,” Cooper said.

The role of the citizens in the play is just as important as that of Caesar, because their actions inadvertently spur his downfall, said the director, and the story demonstrates the power of the people.

“I think the biggest lesson of the story is the role we all play, in not simply who we choose to be our leader, but also how we choose to run our country,” she said. “Shakespeare very firmly puts that choice in our hands — not in the hands of one single leader.”

“Julius Caesar” at Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Pl. between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, (866) 811–4111, www.tfana.org). Previews start March 17 at 7:30 pm. Official opening March 28; Tue–Sun at 7:30 pm through April 28, Weekend matinees at 2 pm starting on March 30. $90–$115 ($20 students and those under 30).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 3:04 pm, March 12, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:


Reasonable discourse

Linda from Fort Greene says:
"“It felt useful to strip away Shakespeare’s language " said no one ever. Well, now one person has.
March 16, 8:04 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: