Wirtz Center production of ‘Julius Caesar’ takes a modernized stance on a classic

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Ben Bomier/The Daily Northwestern

The cast of Julius Caesar. The production will open Friday at Josephine Louis Theater.

Nafi Soumare, Reporter

Modernized takes on classic Shakespeare stories are typical in the media landscape. With its upcoming adaptation of “Julius Caesar,” the Wirtz Center will attempt to break out of traditional molds.

Third-year MFA directing student Danielle Roos, will be directing the adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play. The show will open Friday at Josephine Louis Theater. This will be Roos’ first mainstage show, and she’s chosen to stray from the traditional elements of the play.

“What we’re doing is a little bit grittier, a little bit more modern in some ways,” Roos said.

One of the ways in which Roos made the story modern was through her casting, as she made a deliberate effort to cast roles regardless of the character’s traditional gender or race.

For example, Communication senior Jane Emma Barnett, who identifies as a woman, will be playing Marc Antony, a traditionally male role.

“The race-blind and gender-blind casting is just super different than how I’ve normally grown up seeing Shakespeare,” Barnett said, “but I think it’s ultimately necessary.”

For Roos, the non-traditional casting is something that can add to the thematic strength of the production. Since today’s world has people of varying races, genders and ethnicities in positions of power, it is important to reflect this reality in the show, Roos said.

Roos made an effort throughout the production process to include her cast in decisions pertaining to the set and the themes she wanted to stress most in the performance. Roos believes that one of those overarching themes is the path violence takes.

Roos said it is important to demonstrate how violence is generational, and examining how one generation can make a decision which the next generation has to pay for.

Communication freshman Barbara Burns is one of the assistant costume designers for “Julius Caesar.” She said it’s simultaneously intimidating and exciting to be involved with such a professional production.

“It makes me excited for my future here,” Burns said. “Right now, I’m working on these really elaborate, flowing gowns, but things will only get bigger and better from here.”

Barnett believes that while the show may seem to be a shallow historic retelling, at its core it’s about dissonances between communities.

According to her, this story is relevant to current American politics in that people in power now often don’t represent the majority of society.

“The show really resonates with the theme in today’s socio-political sphere about making decisions for people different than you and how that affects everyone’s daily life, and the cycle of confusion and violence that might come from that dissonance,” Barnett said.

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Twitter: @nafisoumare

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