The Outdoor Performance of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”
By Katherine Kloepping, Dallin Breen, Eliza Myers, Aldus Simmons and Echo Ford
The Theatre Department at Southern Virginia University put on a production of Shakespeare’s. “Julius Caesar” on April 15 and 16 at 6:30 p.m., and a matinee on Saturday, April 17 at 1p.m. It was performed in the peristyle in front of the main hall on campus. Because there was limited seating, only 100 people were able to buy tickets to each performance. The weather was perfect for the occasion and those who attended were able to enjoy the performance in a COVID-safe environment.
“Julius Caesar” is one of Shakespeare’s most known tragedies, but it is also a history play. The play covers the topics of betrayal from a friend and the ambition for political power. Although this play is about the murder of Julius Caesar, it seems to focus more on Brutus and his desire for political power.
Due to COVID-19, the play was permitted to be performed outside. Robert Stoddard, the director of the play and theatre program coordinator states, “Southern Virginia University agreed to permit our cast and crew to do the play under the same restrictions it places on the sports teams. Everybody got tested three times a week, and it was agreed that if any member of the cast tested positive for the coronavirus, the entire cast would be placed into quarantine and the production would be canceled.”
Layne MacPherson (‘21), who played Brutus, says “Leading up to the play was pretty stressful, as we had about two weeks to get [it] memorized before we started running the show, but it was a lot of fun. We also had to get rapid tested 3 times a week, so we could rehearse and perform maskless outside”
Since this play was different from previous productions the theater department has done, it was a concern whether or not it would be well-liked amongst students. “ Audiences seemed to respond to the play; however, we could only allow 100 people to see the show each night, so it’s hard to know how ‘popular’ it was. All seats were sold out for each of the three performances,” says Stoddard. Because the seats were sold out for each performance, Stoddard believes that the play was a success.
Now that the theater department has experienced outdoor plays, will there be more in the future? Stoddard says “I’m sure we will have another outdoor show sometime in the future.”
This play was a big deal for the department. Since their plays have been mainly recordings this semester, this was the first in-person performance with a live audience that has taken place since the pandemic started. This was a very exciting time for the members of the program.
Southern Virginia University student Orion Maxfield (‘21) attended the showing on Friday night. He explains, “Outside was most definitely a new experience but it was a blast. It was interesting when the train came by and forced us to pause for a little. Despite that, I loved it outside […] they did an amazing job! All around it was a splendid night. I hope they do similar things in the future.”
What made this play interesting was that many of the lead roles were played by women. Stoddard stated on Eventbrite, “I think gender diversity in the cast really heightens Shakespeare’s themes for a modern audience,” he continued “Today, both male and female politicians can either be people of integrity or morally bankrupt and bring down a nation.”
The process of putting this play together was anything but easy.. Aubrie Goldhammer (‘21), who played Marc Antony, says, “ The rehearsal process was somewhat of a whirlwind but also an absolute delight. The first part of rehearsals was held indoors with masks and a taped-off section on the floor of the performing arts center, indicating the general shape of the stage. While COVID did make things difficult, we were lucky to be able to test three times a week to ensure that the cast was safe. Once the cast was memorized and we had the entire play blocked, we were able to move outside for unmasked rehearsals. It was so refreshing to be able to see everyone’s faces and I think it brought a new energy to the show.”
For the seniors, it was a bittersweet production. With this being the last play for many of them, it was important that the event was successful. MacPherson says, “Getting to be on stage again made all the preparation worth it though. It was an incredibly rewarding show, and we were all fortunate to have been able to actually act again. ‘Julius Caesar’ was my final show here at Southern Virginia, and I couldn’t have asked for a better final experience.”
Goldhammer adds, “To be honest, in many ways it felt like every other play I’ve been a part of — rehearsals and line readings and backstage shenanigans, everything I’ve come to love about being in a show. It didn’t really hit me that it was my last until the final performance when I was setting my costume with fellow senior, Layne MacPherson.”
Goldhammer continues, “We were reminiscing about all our past roles and I was suddenly struck by the fact that we’d never get to do this again, at least not here in this place with people we’ve come to know and love. It was bittersweet to realize that I’ll be moving on from something that’s been a part of my life for five years now, but it’s also exciting.”
However, despite it being the end of a season for many, Goldhammer is grateful for the opportunities participating in the theater department has given her.
“My time with the Southern Virginia University Theater Program has taught me so much, and not just about acting, and I can’t think of a better closing role than the ambitious and charismatic Mark Antony,” said Goldhammer. “Though I plan on staying in Buena Vista for another year (hopefully working for the theater department) and I’d love to be in more shows, I’m looking forward to seeing new actors take the stage and begin their journeys here just as I did so many years ago.”
Although this is the last play for this semester, there are more plays to come next school year. The theatre program is going to be something to look forward to in the fall of 2021.