THE TRAGEDY OF JULIUS CAESAR
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
MARCH 17 – APRIL 28, 2019
With superb acoustics and less than 300 seats, the Scripps Mainstage at Polonsky Shakespeare Center is one of New York’s finest, intimate homes for modern classical theatre. Hear, see, and feel Shakespeare’s urgent political thriller blaze with life. An early incarnation of Ms. Cooper’s staging electrified audiences at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in 2017.
Now in 2019 for TFANA, in her Off-Broadway debut, Ms. Cooper reimagines Julius Caesar one year before America’s 2020 elections.
MATTHEW AMENDT (Tamburlaine starring John Douglas Thompson) plays Cassius; JORDAN BARBOUR (leading actor at OSF), Mark Antony; Obie Award-winner BRANDON J. DIRDEN, Brutus; MERRITT JANSON (Tamburlaine), Portia; and three-time Obie Award-winner ROCCO SISTO, Caesar. They lead a brilliant seventeen-member company comprised of eight of the original actors from OSF joining nine actors new to the cast.
When Julius Caesar conquers Gaul and expands Rome’s domain to Britain, the Senate, fearful of Caesar’s power, demands he give up his forces and return to Rome. But Caesar illegally marches his army across the Rubicon into Roman territory and civil war erupts. Caesar is victorious and the citizens offer him a crown which would make Caesar king with unrivaled political power for life. Cassius persuades Brutus, one of Caesar’s closest friends, to join a group of Conspirators and on the Ides of March, they assassinate Caesar, crying “Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!”
Shakespeare presents multiple perspectives on whether the Conspirators were patriotic defenders or criminals. Rather than saving the Republic, the assassination plunges Rome into another civil war. Mark Antony joins forces with Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, and conquers the Conspirators. The Roman Republic is replaced by the Roman Empire and power is consolidated under Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus.
Shakespeare’s play is named The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. But who is the tragic character? Caesar, Brutus or, perhaps, the Republic of Rome?
With mesmerizing energy, Shana Cooper’s production explores what happens when violence is used to govern, and theatricalizes a mythic cycle that combines the political, psychological, and phantasmagorical… a cycle that has happened before and will happen again. Initially, the violence is rhetorical, but it then becomes a disease, a contagion, and a conflagration destroying what is loved the most.
Deepen your experience of Julius Caesar with free post-show conversations with artists and scholars following these performances:
Saturday, April 6 at 2:00pm
Moderated by Gail Kern Paster, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly and former Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library
Saturday, April 13 at 2:00pm
Moderated by Tanya Pollard, Professor of English at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center
Additional participants and topics to be announced shortly.
The production of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is sponsored by Deloitte. Additional support is provided by Shakespeare in American Communities, a national initiative sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest, and by endowment funds provided by The Howard Gilman Foundation Fund for Classic Drama.