Andrew Borba has been waiting 15 years to direct “Julius Caesar.” His dream will become a reality when the Shakespeare classic comes to the PlayMakers Repertory Company from March 4 through March 22.
Tia James, an actress who is in her second year with the company and playing Mark Antony in the production, said one of the first themes to come up will be power, but she added it won’t stop there.
“I think the exciting part about our production, and I think the exciting thing about Shakespeare, is that he's talking about the human experience,” James said. “And the human experience is so complicated and versatile and so dynamic, there's going to be so many things that people are taking away.”
The show’s debut is only a part of a long list of firsts for the upcoming production. Actors Lisa Wolpe, who will play Cassius, and C. David Johnson, who will play Julius Caesar, are also making their PlayMakers debuts along with director Andrew Borba.
Besides the lessons of the play, the cast also hopes audiences see a version of Shakespeare they have never seen before. For Johnson, that means one of the most diverse casts he’s ever worked with.
“It's just wonderful to just not be in a starchy, old, white production of Shakespeare,” Johnson said. “I think, especially in this production, people are going to identify with the characters, they're going to be able to see people who look like them and sound like them.”
James would agree, and said she is excited to be living in a time where things can be shaken up.
“You know, I've never seen a Black woman play Mark Antony,” James said. “So, I think by switching it up, changing it up some time, we can break down this box that we not only put Shakespeare in, but that we put people in or that we put life in.”
Johnson said the diversity of the cast also comes across in the varying degrees of experience each actor has with Shakespeare. The diversity in experience is something that Borba said is valuable to the play.
“It's vital and vibrant, because everybody's learning from everybody else,” Borba said. “It brings a level of authenticity to the room that is absolutely alive.”
But, while some of the cast and crew may be new to the production, Borba said the themes that attract modern audiences to “Julius Caesar” are not and are largely the same themes that attracted people hundreds of years ago. For a play that was originally written as a warning against regicide, the contemporary parallels run deep, Borba said.
“Every time somebody does this play, it always feels like it's timely,” Borba said. “Because we're always asking questions of our leaders.”
Johnson, James and Borba all said being a part of the production is a dream come true for them.
“It's not a big broad comedy, but I think it's a ripping good story,” Borba said. “It doesn't come up with answers, it asks questions.”
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