julius caesar

Julius Caesar

Ides of March 2013


CaesarAn initial group of eighteen Grafton residents, including four men from the original pilot project who had transferred from GCI to GRC, performed their first enacted show in March 2013. The pioneer actors performed a spirited rendition of the end of Act 3.2 and all of Act 3.3 from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (the assassination scene and its aftermath) with eight men sharing the role of Marc Antony and six men taking turns playing Brutus. Performed for the general population of the GRC and family and friends, the well-received show took place, quite appropriately, during the Ides of March, 2013. Student directors included Oberlin College theater honors student, Phillip Wong and Oberlin College sophomore theater and art history specialist, Julia Melfi, who had also previously studied prison theatre with Phyllis Gorfain. Joining them was junior Katy Early, a double degree student majoring in voice in the Conservatory of music and theater in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Rehearsing these climactic scenes from Julius Caesar surprised directors and actors alike as we discovered that the unscripted, but necessary, actions and improvised words from the citizens were essential to make sense of the major and famous speeches by Brutus and Marc Antony.  The stirring rhetoric of these two opposed figures turns the allegiances of the Roman populace around more than once. Yet to understand how these speakers accomplish that, the role of the populace needs to be understood as more than that of an unruly and fickle mob, as they are frequently imagined. We explored alternative depictions of the citizens, therefore, and tried to dramatize how Marc Antony and Brutus's manipulations of crowd sentiment led thoughtful individuals to form a destructive group bent on street executions and civil war.

Empathizing with the horror felt by the assassins when they beheld the butchered body of Julius Caesar helped ODAG actors discuss the ways one can be swept into group acts of murder or anti-social behaviour, experience personal and social catastrophe as a result.  All participants enjoyed embodying, through physical action and speech, the extraordinary rhetoric used in these scenes and came to value more fully how Shakespeare shows that not only a great speechmaker but also ordinary citizens can change history.