From Togas to Power Ties, "Julius Caesar" Hits the Road

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY SEP 29, 2017

The students of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training hit the road this week, beginning their roughly two-month-long trek across the state of Florida with a touring production of an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Running from Sep. 27 through Nov. 30, and staging performances in schools and community centers along the way, this annual educational tour is expected to bring the play to nearly 70,000 students, faculty and family before its completion.

Adapted by Tyler Dobrowsky and directed by James Dean Palmer, the production pares Shakespeare’s play down to a 45-minute “essentialized version,” says Palmer, that complements the touring style and easily fits into school schedules, but without losing the fundamental substance of the work. “The thing that we wanted to focus on, the thing that makes it accessible to everyone,” says Palmer, “is it’s a play about honor and a play about betrayal.” Leaving the togas behind for a more modern setting, Dobrowsky and Palmer searched for the right environment to mirror the power plays between Brutus, Cassius and Caesar—that place where one finds camaraderie, closeness, envy and betrayal in equal parts. They ended up on 80s Wall Street.

“That world worked so well for capturing the spirit of Rome in that moment,” says Palmer. Like Caesar, Wall Street brought security and wealth. Like Gordon Gekko, Caesar represented the new money and the new order. And for the target audience—high school students and the like—the 80s holds a special place for storytelling, says Palmer, as a time period both alien and familiar. They hear about it from their parents and see it in the pop culture resurgence, but, without direct experience to make sense of the excesses, it remains an over-the-top fable in many regards and ripe for high drama.

Though other recent adaptations of Julius Caesar have drawn controversy and criticism and praise as pointed productions aimed at the current administration, Palmer has other plans. Without agreeing or disagreeing with the politics of such productions, he takes a stance against on the grounds of spoonfeeding the audience a conclusion that the art should ask them to arrive at themselves. By cementing the commentary, the play robs the viewer of their own interpretation and moment of realization. “They’re smart enough to figure it out on their own,” says Palmer, “and Shakespeare’s done the bulk of the work.”

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training traveling production of Julius Caesar runs through Nov. 30. To catch it before it heads out across the state, there will be a special performance tonight, Sep. 29, at 5:30pm in the FSU Center for Performing Arts.

Pictured, from left: Anthony J. Hamilton and Andrew Bosworth in “Julius Caesar,” Asolo Rep's Presentation of an FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training Touring Production. Photo by John Revisky.

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