By Melissa Voss, News Editor Originally published in Issue 6, Volume 32 of The University Register on Friday, November 22, 2019

Over the course of November 14, 15, 16, and 19, the University of Minnesota Morris theatre discipline performed Shakespeare’s iconic “Julius Caesar,” a tragedy believed to have been written in 1599.

Although holding the original dialogue set by Shakespeare, the UMM theatre took a modern turn. Before the actors even stepped foot on the stage, videos of dictators and heavy rulers, such as Adolf Hilter and Kim Jong-Un, played on two screens set high on the outskirts of the stage, giving the audience a prelude to similar themes of power going on in this play. The play carried strong themes of power, the power of speech, idealism, friendship, and the internal conflict of being a hero or a villain.

As for visual modern twists, modern attire, society, and warfare were used. All the characters dressed in suits or clothing that could be spotted on the street today. Armor and weaponry were similar to those of today, featuring bulletproof vests and prop handguns.

Besides the addition of chairs and camping supplies to one scene, the overall stage set was consistent throughout the two-hour-long play. The set was structured as two oversized staircases ascending upstage. The two staircases were conjoined at the top by a bridge, allowing a tunnel to go throug underneath. There was also a side walkway extension on stage right that allowed actors more walking room, as well as a concealed corner pit used in a late scene. The minimalist nature of the set actually provided a lot of benefits to the cast and crew.

Natalie Wallraff, who played Caius Cassius, said:

“We were fortunate to get the set early in the rehearsal process, which meant we could familiarize ourselves with our acting space early. In ‘Julius Caesar,’ the setting is consistently shifting from scene to scene. Having a minimalistic set meant it could serve multiple purposes without needing long transition times. Shakespeare’s language can be a lot for an unpracticed ear to follow, and I think having too busy of a set might have given audience members too much to focus on at any given time.”

The theatre discipline’s next production is “Hunting and Gathering” by Brooke Berman. Performances will be February 20 to February 22.

Photo on top courtesy of UMM Flickr