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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Caesar with a twist
Published Thursday, August 6, 2009 8:00 am
by Ryanne Persinger

You’ve never seen “Julius Caesar” done like this.

Jonavan Adams is Julius Caesar and Shon Wilson plays his wife Calpurnia in "Julius Caesar." The play is part of the Shakespeare Festival now playing at the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square through Aug. 16. Admission is free.

Sure, the 16th century tongue is the same and so is the setting of Rome, but this play is set in the 21st century.

Julius Caesar and his wife Calpurnia are ditching their togas for suits. And one other thing: the lead characters are African American.

Jonavan Adams plays Julius Caesar and Shon Wilson is Calpurnia.

“The directors are colorblind,” Adams said. “They don’t worry about your skin color and you don’t see that usually in casting Shakespeare. If you have the chops and have what they’re looking for, they’ll hire you.”

In fact, the entire cast is non-traditional. Not only in ethnicity, but in gender, a reflection of today’s society.

“We call it gender blind and colorblind casting,” director Elise Wilkinson said. “The idea is to have our cast represent Charlotte and what it looks like. One of the things about doing Shakespeare in a modern sense is that it gives you a lot more flexibility. You don’t have to have a specific ethnicity or gender.”

“Julius Caesar” is part of the fourth annual Shakespeare Festival now playing at the McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square through Aug. 16. Admission is free but donations will be accepted at show’s end.

Julius Caesar was a Roman military and political leader. William Shakespeare wrote the play “Julius Caesar.”

With the play based on politics, Wilkinson said a diverse cast is what current-day politics resembles.

“I wanted to make sure the show reflects what people see when they pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV,” Wilkinson added.

The Shakespeare festival kicked off in May with a performance of “Twelfth Night.” It is sponsored by Collaborative Arts, a classic and contemporary theatre in Charlotte, founded by Wilkinson and Joe Copley.

Wilkinson says their goal is to pick the right actor for each role. This is Adams’ third show with the company and Wilson’s first.

“With Shakespeare you have to be able to trust yourself,” Wilson says. “Even though the language feels foreign, it’s still just English.”

Wilson says the dialect came easy, but Adams admitted it took some time for him to adapt.

“Once I got into it then I could understand what was going on,” he said. “You just have to break down what they’re saying.”

Wilkinson said she and Copley focus on making the text clear so audiences will understand.

Wilson and Adams hope blacks will see the performance and walk away with an appreciation for stage classics.

“You’ve got to be open to other genres,” Adams says. “It’s not just about the gospel plays. There’s other stuff out there and it’s entertaining as well.”

Wilson said: “It’s good, really good.” “Everybody is superbly talented and working hard to make it a strong show.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Seats are first-come, first-serve and no tickets are needed. For more information, call (704) 625-1288 or visit: www.collaborativeartstheatre.com.


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