Caesar moves to Cupids, sans Caesar

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Inventive three-actor troupe takes on Shakespeare's play

Having just completed a run at the Rabbittown Theatre in St. John's this weekend, "Caesar" is making its way to Cupids. The play will begin a season of theatrical performances in that community, led by the New World Theatre Project.

The play is not a running of William Shakespeare's classic "Julius Caesar" directly from the page. Instead, it gets creative with the text - the story of the assassination of Roman emperor Julius Caesar and the aftermath of his murder. The unique version uses just three actors and ... wait for it ...

Neil Butler and Laura Huckle in a rehearsal for "Caesar," the first show for the New World Theatre Project's Indeavour Stage in Cupids. - Photo by Darrell Edwards/Special to The Telegram

Having just completed a run at the Rabbittown Theatre in St. John's this weekend, "Caesar" is making its way to Cupids. The play will begin a season of theatrical performances in that community, led by the New World Theatre Project.

The play is not a running of William Shakespeare's classic "Julius Caesar" directly from the page. Instead, it gets creative with the text - the story of the assassination of Roman emperor Julius Caesar and the aftermath of his murder. The unique version uses just three actors and ... wait for it ...

"I have no Caesar," said director Brad Hodder.

"The first rehearsal we accidentally assassinated the actor," he joked. But seriously, no actors were harmed in the making of this play.

"We adapted the script for three actors - that was sort of the genesis of the idea. Then as I got cutting and was looking at the script. ... Caesar was in until three or four days until rehearsal started," he said. Before opening the play at the Rabbittown Theatre, the emperor was nixed.

"The play itself is probably about Brutus anyway, and so this version of it is very much about Brutus. ... We didn't need the character of Caesar in our story. We're focusing much more on Brutus and Cassius and what they're going to do to Caesar, what happens to Caesar and then what they're going to do once that happens. But the actual assassination itself - everybody knows he died," Hodder said.

And so, "Caesar does make an appearance. He's just not played by anybody," he said.

"I've done a few Shakespeares, but I've never done anything with such a significant cut as this one, or such a significant adaptation. Taking - there's upwards of 20 characters in this show - and getting that down to three actors, but maintaining the story so that an audience can come in and see it so if they haven't read the play, there's still a story there for them to hang on to," he said. "The heart of the story is still there, but it's a different take on the story for sure."

Even without Caesar, the three actors in "Caesar" are kept busy playing other characters. In main, Dave Sullivan plays the central figure of Brutus, Cassius is played by Neil Butler and Laura Huckle performs as Lucius, Portia and Antony.

Hodder has no qualms about cutting Shakespeare's count of characters to something manageable for three actors.

"As we started playing around with it and saying; what's the story we can tell with three actors and what's the story we want to tell with three actors?' ... I didn't think we needed all of the characters to tell the story," he said.

Sullivan, Butler and Huckle, Hodder said, have found ways to make clear the differences in the various characters they do play.

"I never wanted to get into the - 'now we change hats and now we put on a coat and now we put on,'" he said. "When you're working with good actors and you have enough time to play around with it, you get to try all the stuff that doesn't work and then you find the thing that does work."

The team also had some help from the text itself.

"Shakespeare does this great thing where at the beginning of almost all the scenes everyone says their names," the director said. "So they kind of say - Alright Anthony! OK Octavius!"

The interpretation of "Julius Caesar" has worked so far, and Hodder said, since the play was originally put together in anticipation for a move to other venues - including school classrooms and outdoor venues - he foresees few changes for the move to Cupids.

"We sort of started with nothing and grew from there with sort of 'What do we need to tell the story?' The biggest change from moving inside to outside, in this reinterpretation of the Globe theatre, is small moments are probably going to have to become bigger and just the vocal challenges - all of the obvious practical challenges are there," he said. "But I'm a lot more curious of how much we can actually hold on to and how intimate we can actually make outside."

The "reinterpretation of the Globe theatre" is the Indeavour Stage, a stage being built in Cupids (but will be portable for future set-up elsewhere) as part of the New World Theatre Project. "Caesar" is scheduled to run in Cupids from June 19 until July 4.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Rabbittown Theatre, New World Theatre, Globe theatre

Geographic location: Cupids, St. John's

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  • don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    What does Julius Caesar have to do with John Guy and Cupids? Performances of plays by William Shakespeare whose works were popular in 17th century during the time when John Guy was establishing his colony at Cuperre's Cove would be more appropriate, especially a play called Hamlet . It appears that the so called Cupids 400 celebrations are going to be a forum for entertainment supported by Government grants. Apparently, Government grants is what the Cupids 400 celebration is really all about!

  • Donna
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    If they were to play Hamlet, someone would complain that the Prince of Denmark has nothing to do with Cupids. I, for one, will be looking forward to what seems to be an interesting adaptation of this classic.

  • don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    What does Julius Caesar have to do with John Guy and Cupids? Performances of plays by William Shakespeare whose works were popular in 17th century during the time when John Guy was establishing his colony at Cuperre's Cove would be more appropriate, especially a play called Hamlet . It appears that the so called Cupids 400 celebrations are going to be a forum for entertainment supported by Government grants. Apparently, Government grants is what the Cupids 400 celebration is really all about!

  • Donna
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    If they were to play Hamlet, someone would complain that the Prince of Denmark has nothing to do with Cupids. I, for one, will be looking forward to what seems to be an interesting adaptation of this classic.