A multitude of voices battle to be heard over a loudspeaker. The stage lights come up on Julius Caesar standing center stage, motionless. Finally, one voice triumphs over the rest, and we hear JFK’s famous quote, “Mankind must put an end to war—or war will put an end to mankind.” Caesar gazes steadily into the audience. She is strong. She is self-possessed. She is wearing high heels.
“Part of my understanding of gender as a director is that if I’m going to be casting women in traditionally male roles, I am going to be embracing what it means to be a woman in the context of these characters rather than having these really amazing young actresses playing men,” explains Zachary Flick, CC ’17, director of King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe’s Julius Caesar. KCST’s second production of the semester ran from Oct. 27 to Oct. 29 in the Glicker-Milstein Theatre.
Caesar (played by Carolyn Kegel, CC ’17) was not the only central character cast as female. Kegel’s upright posture and subtle expressiveness created a Caesar that, although poised and restrained, was still unmistakably human. Isabel Daly, BC ’19, delivered a deeply convincing performance as the emotionally conflicted Brutus. Molly Lo Rae, BC ’17, brought intensity to every scene in her role as Cassius. Flick said that while he does not think Julius Caesar is a play about gender, it can be used to illustrate privilege. He chose to leave Mark Antony male, as he said that to him the character was representative of the patriarchy.
“Mark Antony is one of the men who comes from one of the oldest families in Rome. He represents everything that is wrong with the old establishment and the way that Rome was run, and is very actively fighting to keep Rome the way that it was. I think, for me, it was the characters that were men that were the members of this old establishment,” he said.
Aside from its dazzling costumes, the performance was visually remarkable in its amount of physical violence. Even though the cast featured only six conspirators, Flick made sure Caesar was stabbed a full 23 times. By the time she fell to the ground, her white gown was drenched in blood.
Flick wanted to leave the audience unsettled by the amount of violence they witnessed on stage. It was suggestive to him of the violence we see in our society today, especially against the LGBT community and through police brutality. “I really wanted the takeaway from this production to be, ‘How can we not repeat the mistakes that were made 2,000 years ago that seem to keep cropping up throughout history?’” he explained. The stage combat itself was sometimes less than convincing, but the cries of the actors being beaten were enough to make their pain palpable to the audience.
However, Flick did not want the abundance of fake blood and fist fights to distract from where real violence takes its root. The play ends as it begins, with an audio clip. This time, there is only one voice. We hear clearly the words of C.S. Lewis: "The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."