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Monday, October 12, 2009

Georgia Shakespeare returns to scene of the crime with Julius Caesar

click to enlarge BRUTUS SQUAD: Brutus (Neal A. Ghant, left) and Cassius (Joe Knezevich)
  • BRUTUS SQUAD: Brutus (Neal A. Ghant, left) and Cassius (Joe Knezevich)

When the Roman conspirators bathe their hands in the blood of Julius Caesar’s title character, the scheming instigator Cassius wonders how history will judge them. “How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown?” reflects Cassius, played by Joe Knezevich in Georgia Shakespeare’s new production. Cassius, however, thinks that’s a good thing.

He perceives himself, Brutus, and their cohorts as “the men that gave their country liberty,” and their bloodbath as a timeless image equivalent to American paintings of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence.

Shakespeare fully intended his audiences to recognize the irony of Cassius’ meta-moment, but might not have expected that his lofty dramatization would be staged down the centuries, often with diverse interpretations. Shakespeare may have written Julius Caesar in 1599 partly to express concerns over a possible civil war in the event of Queen Elizabeth’s death. In 1937, Orson Welles commented on Mussolini’s regime with his famed “Italian fascist” interpretation. In 2001, Georgia Shakespeare took inspiration from the assassination of Louisiana governor Huey Long for a stunningly creative production that featured Mardi Gras parades and racially charged lynchings.

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(Photo by Jennifer Hofstetter)

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