Julius Caesar: Soothsaying, assassination and war onstage


By Hannah Kramer, Staff Writer IMG_8348 - by Evan Goetz - Walter Pigford(Brutus) and Megan Dyer(Portia)

The Armstrong Masquers production of “Julius Caesar” opens at Jenkins Theater Nov. 5.

For those unfamiliar with the play, Shakespeare’s political classic dramatizes the assassination of Julius Caesar and the conspiracies that precede and follow Caesar’s death, thus prompting  the fall of Rome’s Republic. The story is told almost exclusively from the conspirators’ points of view.

The Masquers Theatre Troupe uses the original script, which can be intimidating to  those new to Shakespeare. Director Peter Mellen, however, does not think the language will be a problem. “[The actors] are actually talking to each other, and the audience will know what is being said, will feel it and will care about it.”

The setting of the production is not Ancient Rome, but a time within the next few decades. The set for the production is the work of faculty member John Wright. The design is largely inspired by Soviet war memorials scattered across Eastern Europe.

The setting is not the only adaption being made. Characters whose roles are left unresolved or  unmentioned after the third act are fused with characters only introduced after the third act. This aims to increase character development and plot resolution.

The play originally had two female roles but in the Masquers production, half of the conspirators are played by women. This even includes the a central character, Cassius, played by Amira Williams. Mellen feels this depicts how women today have achieved positions of power, but still find that the glass ceiling has not been removed.

Mellen explained that the play is still incredibly relevant, “The [Roman] Republic committed suicide. It wasn’t defeated by outside hordes; it was the people who were supposed to be taking care of the democracy that went out of their way to destroy it. That is kind of scary, especially as we look at the world today…”

The play’s political themes are not the reason it is being performed— a point that Mellen stressed,stating, “I am not that calculating.” National and world politics were not discussed during rehearsals, and the Masquers’ are not portraying anyone in the political realm.  

“Julius Caesar” opens on Jenkins Theater’s main stage Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. There will be showings Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. A matinee will be available  Nov. 8 at 3 p.m.  Armstrong students and faculty can attend for free with a valid Pirate Card, while general admission is $12.