By Kate Powell
This Ides of March, we come together to remember one of history’s fallen men. Julius Caesar died March 15, 44 B.C. In honor of this, the Colorado Shakespeare Company visited Weld Central to present his namesake Shakespeare play to our very own Sophomore Class. The play was adapted and abridged to present a new moral for the present day, and make the scenes applicable to a younger demographic. This modern presentation was performed by three actors and one musician, doubling up on characters in order to present the key figures of the drama. Julius Caesar also portrayed the characters of Casca, Marc Antony, Cinna the Poet and the Crowd. Brutus, a female genderbent character, was also the face of the soothsayer and crowd. Finally, her husband Ponzio (traditionally Portia) also played Cassius as well as the Crowd.
Several changes were made to this play, not only to fit it with the time and cast allotted, but to permit greater acceptance by the younger audience. This modern adaptation still used the original language, but presented it via contemporary props and scenery. Painted buckets served as columns, skinny jeans as togas, chains and switchblades as weapons and cellphones as intel. The actors remained on stage for the entirety of the drama, with occasional journeys into the audience. When not a part of the scene, they sat in chairs upstage, and prepared for their next scene. Character changes were done with small changes in costume but greater changes to demeanor. It was easy to tell when the actress playing Brutus transitioned to her part as Soothsayer, or when Caesar became Cinna. The modern interpretation was certainly unique, but for the most part helped to enhance understanding of the situation.
Other interesting changes were made from the original. As stated, Brutus was played by a woman, and Portia [Ponzio] a man. This in and of itself would make for an interesting take on the familiar scenes between the two, but at home, her husband chose to speak incredibly rapid Spanish. Perhaps it was Shakespearean, but for my part, it was all Spanish to me. These changes were made to include minority groups in a formerly exclusive production. Women were not allowed to portray even female parts in the Elizabethan Era, so this genderswap was intended to provide some historical balance. The inclusion of Spanish allowed inclusion of another predominant culture into the universality that is the work of the Bard. Use of song and direct address was also incorporated to further the intended moral of the adapted play: bullying, bystanders, and unnecessary violence.
The play was generally well received by the Sophomore class. After the play they were able to break into discussion groups to further discuss the themes of bullying, violence, and the information service Safe2Tell. In an interactive improv session they reenacted scenes from the play, but changed one aspect in order to save Caesar. This included contacting the authorities or warning the target. This increased involvement with the actors and themes was welcomed, as the students were able to see the impact of the role they play on the stage of life.
Thanks so much to the Colorado Shakespeare Company for this experience!