Something wicked… – MACBETH IV i

A weird thing for any modern production of Julius Caesar is that for most people who aren’t utter history nerds that are deeply into that period of Roman history, whatever notion they have of the story of Caesar’s assassination very likely comes from this play, if only from classroom memory of Antony’s oration. Which means we lose the important facet of the play: it’s more or less Wicked*.


To explain:

Brutus & Cassius (and the rest of the conspirators) were for centuries seen as just the ultimate awful betrayers (there are even rumors that Brutus could have been Caesar’s illegitimate son). In the Inferno, Dante stuck them in the ninth and centermost circle of hell, where Lucifer, stuck in ice himself, eats them eternally with his three mouths (Judas gets the third one, and even here, as with everything Catholic, there’s a bit of hierarchy, with B&C being eaten (again, eternally) feetfirst while Judas is in headfirst).

So in a world where the Inferno is taken as the most common image of how all this works, to write a play in which one of the three worst people in human history is portrayed as a thoughtful, decent, capital-S Stoic with the best interests of his beloved Republic at heart (who made some remarkably ill-considered decisions), one of the other worst people in history is portrayed as maybe Machiavellian but certainly not even the worst person in Shakespeare much less all of humanity by the time all is done, and The Betrayed is sort of barely there at all but for a couple of pompous pronouncements, more talked about than talking, it’s really…well, a bit of a twist on the received notions of how one tended to interpret the story at the time it was written.

So imagine now that for hundreds of years, The Wizard of Oz has been an interesting footnote that some grad students are into, but the story everyone gathers around to watch every year** is instead Wicked.

Because that’s sort of the perspective we’ve got on Julius Caesar now.

Just an observation.



*Was I the only person a little disappointed that Hamilton wasn’t a hip-hop bio-musical of the two Margaret Hamiltons (the actress and the NASA computer scientist)? Probably.

**Am I showing my age here or what? When was the last time a family movie was subject to network TV holiday schedules and not evermore at the fingertips to shut the little darlings up on road trips?

…a voluntary wound/ Here, in the thigh – JULIUS CAESAR, II i

This is worth quoting in full, and trying to keep yourself from hearing with too modern an ear. Portia says, What’s up with you lately?; Brutus says, Go to bed, you’re sick; Portia says, Tell me – you think I can’t take it?

          Tell me your Counsels, I will not disclose ’em:

          I have made strong proofe of my Constancie,

          Giving my selfe a voluntary wound

          Heere, in the Thigh: Can I beare that with patience,

          And not my Husband’s Secrets?

Brutus says, Yikes…fair enough, I’ll tell you. (Then there’s a knock on the door, so whether he tells her is left uncertain; later she seems to know what’s going on, with all the political assassinating and stuff, but whether she figured it out or Brutus told her is lost to history, and Shakespeare, as he often does with such matters, leaves us dangling.)

So what exactly is your damage, Portia Catonis Filia? Is this cutting a child-of-divorce thing (she was), or are you cheesed because your husband is so well liked by that Caesar guy your father hated?


This “voluntary wound” episode comes straight out of Plutarch, Shakespeare’s main source for Julius Caesar, and reading the direct source does add the helpful detail that she said she did so to prove that she couldn’t be forced to reveal anything he might tell her even under torture. But the fact remains that she seems to have done so before this whole conversation, so…whether that makes her one Supremely Hardcore OG Stoic or sufferer of a severe chemical imbalance – or both – is also lost to history. Also, though it’s known that this self-wounding with a barber’s knife made her sick and feverish, it’s up to the production whether this is the “condition” she’s in that Brutus mentions. Some productions also portray Portia as pregnant. (Say that sentence three times fast.) There’s leeway here, of course, what with drama being more important than accuracy to Shakespeare and to anyone trying to tell an engaging story. And since no one can be certain, what the hey? Go for it.

It’s hard to take her later (2,000-year-old spoiler alert) suicide by the distinctly in-character swallowing of hot coals as a sign of any propensity toward self-harm, either. Though again, history is muddy on this*, so a production has more of a responsibility to make things interesting than accurate. But suicide in this play (and in Ancient Roman and Japanese culture) wasn’t exclusively what it is today, especially in battle. Shakespeare makes quite clear that the running-on of swords in Julius Caesar is related to the question of honor (though Cassius does talk about it a lot throughout the play every time the slightest thing goes wrong; frankly they’re lucky they got as far with the plan as they did with him aboard…but he was his mother’s son. More than Macduff, and for that matter Caesar, can say, if you go by Shakespeare’s tenuous hold on what “born of woman” means); Portia, being Portia, sees herself as part of her husband’s army, I think, so her grief at their parting is a lot more potentially layered. Only now it hits me: this…this is the play they throw at fourteen-year-olds?

Portia is a fascinating character and was by all reports that survive of her a fascinating person. Of all the prequels Shakespeare dealt in, it makes you wish he had given her more stage time in a backstory of her own. Someone get on that, won’t you?


* Some believe she really killed herself by staying in an unventilated room where charcoal burned and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning; some think she was sick anyway and died, possibly of plague, well before the battle of Philippi. But those are historians. We who do straight theater have to leave lingering deaths like that to our expert colleagues in the world of opera.

Stand close awhile, for here comes one in haste – JULIUS CAESAR, I iii

Julius Caesar is upon us, or as I think of it, the second show in the month of June in which I’ll say “for here comes one in haste” and just have to hope that it’s always Cinna that shows up and not Ursula from Much Ado because then I’ll just be hopelessly confused which I usually am in rep anyway. This whole summer has come in haste.

Most of Caesar will run in July, though, which seems appropriate since the month was named for him, but also inappropriate because probably no play by Shakespeare is more historically associated with the academic year than this one. It has been said (and I believe it) that for years teachers chose this play as their students’ introduction to Shakespeare in no small part because it lacks the filthy, suggestive, delightful crudeness of all the other big favorites. (I think Romeo & Juliet  has probably taken the student mantle now for reasons of being “relatable to teens” or whatever, but JC still does solid bulk scholastic paperback business.)

Julius Caesar

There was a time when every student in the country know Antony’s funeral oration by heart – or was supposed to, anyway – in part because of its clear rhetorical examples (certainly clearer than the mixed metaphors and long lists of that “To be or not to be” mess, right? Take arms against a sea? That doesn’t work.) But me, I regrettably come from the public school period just a little after great chunks of memorization had stopped; it would have been pretty useful had I only known I’d be memorizing things for a living later. I can do you all of The Blues Brothers and Monty Python & the Holy Grail if necessary, but it seldom is, and it’s not nearly as impressive as knowing the prologue to the Canterbury Tales or “Locksley Hall” or the other bits dumped from the curriculum.


So for those of us who weren’t assigned “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” (or, as the typo I just fixed said, Countryman, which is that crazy Jamaican movie from the early 80s and is great but probably not relevant here), here are a few things useful to know going in to watching Julius Caesar.

-Caesar dies. You knew that, right? As in any other historical tragedy, the author kind of assumes you know the outcome of the Titanic or Hiroshima or Lincoln’s trip to Our American Cousin. It then plays with that, in little scenes and details that do nothing but show you how close the whole thing was to being prevented both through effort and coincidence. Some of these ineffective obstacles are made up, some historically believed, but all of them just make the whole gruesome business seem more inevitable. The actor playing our Brutus, who has played the role before, said in rehearsal it made him feel like he was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, like every production of the play reincarnated Brutus for eternity to do over and over something he regretted. This came out of a conversation about Cassius’s harsh irony just after the assassination:

                                     How many Ages hence

          Shall this our lofty Scene be acted over,

          In State unborne, and Accents yet unknowne?

(more on that in this earlier post)

The assassination of Caesar and the resulting rule over Rome by triumvirate (Octavius Caesar, Antony, & Lepidus) brought an end to the Roman republic and pretty much to democracy in the Western world until the founding of America (I oversimplify, but still.) The assassination was seen as one of the worst acts of betrayal of all time – Dante put Brutus with Judas in the innermost circle of Hell – until Dan Stevens left Downton*. Shakespeare chooses the fairly bold notion to see the conspirators as humans instead of mustache-twirlers, which just ends up making the whole murder and its aftermath that much worse for individual and country. I note all that only so it stays in mind the next time someone brings up all the kerfuffle at the Public in New York again. (I can’t speak for every company, but at Kentucky Shakespeare we always urge everyone to stay for the whole show. Things tend to, you know, change as the story unfolds. Also, we pass the hat at intermission so you have to stay at least that long, right?)


Well. This was going to be a list, but that’s just about all you need to know that the play doesn’t tell you. Shakespeare very kindly makes clear early on that Honor Suicide was most definitely a Thing for noble Romans; that many in power (as always) had a fair amount of disdain for what Caska calls “the rabblement” and “the common herd”; that people are quickly willing to jump on a new celebrity bandwagon and almost immediately forget what came before – the audience scarcely needs to know who this “Pompey” guy is that gets mentioned early in the play because frankly Rome seems to have forgotten him itself, now that he’s been defeated by someone more charismatic.

I will  add one lame little Shakespeare tidbit – this was probably the first play Shakespeare wrote to be performed at his company’s fancy new theatre, the Globe, in or around 1599. Plays were daylight affairs back then, in the late afternoon. Which makes the opening lines all the more entertaining to me: “Hence: home you idle Creatures, get you home:/ Is this a Holiday?” The percentage of the audience slagging off work was probably significant.

Oh, cheap laughs at the audience’s expense…treasure them in a play like this. Things go wrong pretty quickly.

caesar assassination

* Isn’t it nice that we live in a day when we don’t have to worry about anything worse than thi – oh, hang on; I just read any newspaper of the last century. Nevermind.

…stemming it with hearts of controversy – JULIUS CAESAR, I ii

Among other feelings, I’m feeling that feeling that, say, a lifelong diehard Cubs fan feels when they win the Series and suddenly everyone’s got a hat on, or perhaps that of Bill Murray in Stripes when he defends the then-living Tito Puente. Because suddenly this week everybody’s incredibly well-informed about Julius Caesar.

There’s enough chatter on both sides about the whole shtuss’n’tummel at the Public in Central Park, New York (“that other one”, as we affectionately call it in Louisville, where our Shakespeare company in an Olmstead-designed park started one whole year earlier) that I don’t really feel the need to write a whole post going on about it. I only popped on here to note that I’ve been thinking of a different play for a couple of days, one I bought an LP box of (because they used to do that with straight plays in a simpler time) at a used record store in Cambridge, Mass. sometime just before the end of the last century.


It made its premiere just over fifty years ago, in January of 1967. It was called MacBird and starred Stacy Keach, Rue McClanahan, and marked the professional debut of Cleavon Little. It reads like a particularly edgy MAD Magazine lampoon (let me be clear that I mean that as a compliment) but at fuller length.

Here’s a little wiki-history.

The reasons why it came to mind are probably wildly obvious, so I’ll just bring it up and leave it here for you. The times, they are, uh…changin’?

…an improbable fiction – TWELFTH NIGHT, III iv

All three shows in this summer’s season of Kentucky Shakespeare feature one of those little moments I love, which keep us (the show-makers) from getting too precious about ourselves. Shakespeare loves to throw these in, but they’re not always there and I’m glad we have one in each of this year’s scripts.

That is to say: cheap and easy metatheatre, not of the more obvious and showier Hamlet/Midsummer lay-within-a-play type but rather that kind where a character says in so many words, “Huh; it’s almost like you people are watching a play right now or something…” and the audience says, “Yup.” No litcrit treatises required, just a pleasant but trippy little flash of the Droste effect.

The techniques of actors are mentioned when the conspirators meet in Julius Caesar and Brutus admonishes them not to look all dark and guilty about this (“good! – I swear! – good!”) project they’re about to embark on, lest someone catch on too soon:

          Let not our lookes put on our purposes,

          But beare it as our Roman Actors do,

          With untyr’d Spirits and formal Constancie,

“untyr’d” in this case playing with the obvious sense of “not tired” but also “undressed”, “not attired” (seeing as how the Frenchy word “costume” didn’t sneak across the Channel for another couple of hundred years and actors were still changing backstage in what they called a “tiring house”), which is gloriously tricky talk: don’t look guilty because a) that will blow the whole plan but also importantly b) what, when you strip everything away, do you have to look guilty about when our basic purpose is so gosh-darned pure? Oh, Brutus. Stoicism doesn’t mix well with your naïve grasp on human nature. Been there, pal.

But that’s less metatheatre than a useful simile. The fun bit comes right after the fun and difficult to stage stabby scene* when Cassius has the (purely genuine or meant to manipulate or both? Actor’s call) philosophical presence of mind to wonder:

                                       How many Ages hence

          Shall this our lofty Scene be acted over,

          In State unborne, and Accents yet unknowne?

Brutus picks up the thought:

          How many times shall Caesar bleed in Sport

          That now…lye along,

          No worthier than the dust?

And then Cassius chimes back in with one of the play’s many understatements of gross miscalculation:

          So oft as that shall be,

          So often shall the knot of us be called,

          The Men that gave their Country liberty.

The path of that thought gives the audience a nice trajectory from “You called it, Cassius” to “Cool; we’re watching that happen right now” to “But guys, that whole spin doesn’t really play out for you in the long run” (or, if the audience knows the play, even the incredibly short run).

Richard II is all about pageantry and a king who lives for it, but he doesn’t speak in theatrical terms as often as you’d think. The real meta moment comes just after his super-fancy deposition scene with the broken mirror and the “Ay, no, no, I” business and all kinds of melodrama, Richard being a terrific part to tear a cat in** – and the next scene starts with Richard’s uncle York telling his wife the story of Henry IV’s triumphant ride amongst the people and the way-less-triumphant Richard’s similar ride after him:

          As in a Theater, the eyes of Men,

          After a well grac’d Actor leaves the Stage,

          Are idlely bent on him that enters next,

          Thinking his prattle to be tedious,

which manages both to compare the less-popular Richard with the triumphant Henry, but also compare the scattered and about-to-be-quite-comic (at last – this play is sparse on the levity) actor playing York with the impressiveness of the big Richard set piece that preceded this little scene of would-be domesticity and boots. I laugh every time in rehearsal, and the actor playing York isn’t particularly playing it up. It’s just unavoidable.

There’s little of this in Much Ado, since the scenes in which Beatrice and Benedick are tricked into romance are so inherently theatrical it’s scarcely worth mentioning in great detail. But just in case you were nodding off, at the end of the fooling of Benedick, Don Pedro mentions it anyway:

          the sport will be, when they hold one an opinion of another’s dotage, and no such matter, that’s the Scene that I would see, which will be merely a dumb show…

“merely a dumb show” being an odd way to describe any scene between Beatrice and Benedick, who even for characters in Shakespeare are chatty (and prose-chatty at that which is harder to memorize than verse-chatty, believe you me). Perhaps he’s just thinking wishfully; perhaps, considering that the dumb show usually served as a prologue to the main action, that’s more what he’s going for. There are, as always, options.

As I said, I’m happy these little nuggets appear in each of the summer’s plays because I love to look for the little similarities in plays that weren’t chosen by that criteria. More connections will start popping up once we’re doing all three in rotation. They always do. Assuming there’s anything left of our minds to notice such things at that point…


*I’ll be Caska in ours and I’m looking forward to going in with the first poke, partially for Drama and partially because it’s only going to get harder to stage from there.

** that’s from Shakespeare…

for ALWAYS I am Caesar – JULIUS CAESAR, I ii

During the week of May 8-14, I:

-was a part of the first read-through of Kentucky Shakespeare’s impending summer togas-and-all Julius Caesar;

-saw Kentucky Shakespeare’s 90-minute outdoor spring touring modern dress production of Julius Caesar;

-saw Shakespeare Behind Bars’s annual production at Luther Luckett Correctional Facility, directed by the same director as the previous two. Did I mention it was Julius Caesar?

It’s fascinating to experience so many related-but-unrelated productions of the same story in such a short span, especially having connections with each. Obviously I’m in one of them. I did the 90-minute cutting for another. And I’ve seen I think seven performances by the men of Shakespeare Behind Bars – the work Matt Wallace does with them as facilitator of these productions (which is like directing but allows them to take over a lot of the heavy lifting, especially in letting the older hands help in making the newer members of the group learn the ropes) never ceases to move and amaze.

And by move, I don’t just mean emotionally – those guys do not waste time or air but hustle the show along at a pace and with a clarity that professionals should pay attention to – they worked from a very lightly trimmed script (I think Antony’s servant, Cicero & Caius Ligarius were the only real cuts) and came in at about two hours and five minutes including intermission. Ponder any production you’ve ever seen and do the math. And they didn’t rush. They just moved. Everyone knew what was being said and didn’t worry about showing off emotionally. There wasn’t time; too much stuff was happening.

The thing that’s especially impressive about these productions is that often performances of the sort of Shakespeare Behind Bars are purely art therapy, which is valuable enough on its own. But in the dozen years I’ve been able see these performances, I’ve seen so much growth among the men as performers as well. I’ve also had the benefit of conversation with many of them about Shakespeare and performance (and pretty much exclusively that) and let me assure you they know what they’re talking about when they talk about those things. I count them as some of the most rewarding conversations and audience experiences of my life.

The performers also have a real knack that I wish I could figure out how to transfer to pro productions, which is this perfect toggle between utter silliness in the parts that should be played for laughs and the heightened tragic or supernatural. Lucius’s borderline narcolepsy that bookends the appearance of Caesar’s ghost, for example – they proved it possible to make an audience spring from goofy to intense and then relieve them back into goofy, thereby landing in a nice median from which we could move into the next matters at hand. That sounds like a weirdly specific thing, but it is a constantly useful skill when dealing with Shakespeare.

The 90-minute tour I have to step back from complimenting because I had a hand in it and therefore it’s not my place, but I really dug the modern setting. Those can go up and down. I’ve probably said here before that I’m less interested in whether the production obeyed the tenets of presumed original historical Elizabethan practices or was devised by puppeteers through theatre games and more interested in whether it was good. This simple black-suits-&-political-posters version with only six actors worked really well. There was little effort to be on the nose about anything politically specific so much as just let it be, which is for the best. If one is determined to shoehorn in precise cultural translations, they had all better work and they had better line up parallel across the full board. This one kept it generally in the political sphere (because that’s where the story happens) without trying to make anyone too precisely represent any one modern situation.

The reading was fun if only because I got to wear my dramaturg hat as well as my bald actor pate.* And I’m Caska, which means a light and frothy second half as a couple of one-liner soldiers. It’s terrific, this relatively calm second act, and will be even better once the reality that is an Ohio Valley July sets in. You can sometimes gauge actors’ ages or experience purely by how they respond to the idea of reinstating or cutting lines. Especially in a rep company when you have a fun and chewy role in one show and a medium-to-small role in the others. All actors are Nick Bottom at heart, but there’s a time when even the theatrical ego takes a relieved back seat to mental and physical exhaustion.

Alright. Onward. The Bishop of Carlisle isn’t going to memorize himself.

* The reason there’s been precious little action on this blog of late comes down to that as well – rehearsals started May 1 and I’ve been here for every scene every day until yesterday. At some point I should probably get fully off book for Benedick (I’m THIS CLOSE**); Greene and the Bishop of Carlisle are less of a worry, since Richard II opens two weeks later and I have only about two pages worth of lines, all verse, to Benedick’s twenty-five of prose.

**Update: got it.

…High on a stage to be placed to the view. – HAMLET, V ii

One of the exciting things about this summer in the park with Kentucky Shakespeare is the new stage, which will make its debut during a season that includes Julius Caesar, generally thought to be among the first (if not the first) plays used to open the Globe in the 1590s. As a lover of direct audience address, its opening lines (“Hence: home you idle Creatures, get you home”) entertain me greatly. It’s one thing to speak to the crowd and another to have the confidence to tweak them for playing hooky from work to come to your show at all. which, statistically, a good chunk of them were.


Now, for proper direct audience address, it’s nice to be able to get as close as possible to people, for which purpose the old stage had a rake. Unfortunately the raked stage facing one way and the raked seating the other meant one could only land about halfway down the rake before starting to disappear from the view of the people at the rear. So on the new stage, the dimensions are the same but the rake is gone; I was bummed about that at first until I realized this meant I could get even closer to the front row than I was able to before and still be seen back at the bar and the food trucks.

Another change is the stage house, which was lovely and modified-Elizabethan and all but was also pushing thirty, has had hours to ripe and ripe outside in the Ohio Valley, and has moved on to the hours where it rots and rots. The noisy planks one waited on to enter above were past Rustic and only pausing at Dispiriting on the hill down towards Decrepit. Now there’s to be an annual temporary set piece to give us the levels we require without allowing them to bake and freeze in alternation.

Back in November, I think it was, the stage house was pulled down – well, some bolts were loosened and then a bunch of us blew on it really hard – in preparation. Some of it was used in our (indoor) Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in January to make a skewed version of what had been our Hamlet stage a couple of seasons before.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of fine work done on that stage, and I’ve seen some of  the worst (so the exact track record of every stage in history). I’ve done a couple of things I was proud of there, and I’ve chewed mercilessly on that delicately seasoned wood, which tastes more like ham than chicken. But the day of helping to tear it down was less nostalgic than I expected it to be on the whole, probably because it was so clearly a preparation for building it up more sturdily than it had been in a while. [Insert poignant metaphor for the last few seasons at the park here.] Also, as long as we’re facing the right way and we’re high enough to be seen, we have some solid words to bellow out there, so whether the beams are old are new is moot, in my eyes.

Anyway, a new playground is always welcome. And now I have very little idea what the pulpit at Caesar’s funeral (spoiler) will look like or how high up Richard II will be when says “we [royal we] will descend”, which is fun after some time of being able to guess where things would land.

I’ll see a floor plan in a couple of weeks, May 1, when rehearsals begin. You’re welcome to come to the park and watch the new set come together, of course. It’s free, and the weather is lovely this time of year…


…the infernal Atë in good apparel… – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, II i

I’m evermore intrigued by the accidental overlaps among these plays that make up our seasons. Any plays, any seasons, any company really. And it isn’t the obvious big “well clearly the girl-in-boy-clothes plot element is worth it again” or “usurpers are doomed from the get-go” overlaps. I like the tiny ones.

Atë, for example.

Atë is the Greek goddess of (depending on your sources) mischief, delusion, ruin, folly, blind folly, infatuation, rash action and reckless impulse. Her talking people (and gods) into doing dumb things without thinking about them first, which is clearly how Mischief (not as strong a word to us as it was for Shakespeare, or even Sondheim) and Ruin work.

I’m very fond of Atë’s literal way of achieving this, according to Homer: after she was banished from Olympus for talking Zeus into doing something stupid – because he really needed her help on that front – “her feet are delicate* and they step not on the firm earth, but she walks the air above men’s heads and leads them astray”, addling their brains with her occasional footfalls on their brainpans. For the gods, she has to smooth-talk. For mortals, a noggin jostle is all she needs, though in other non-Homeric versions, there’s always smooth talk.

Atë could for this reason very well be the patron goddess of nearly every worthwhile character in Shakespeare. My constant argument for picking up the pace when acting Shakespeare, besides my trust in the human ear’s ability to get what’s going on when it’s provided with something worth hearing, is that if these people stopped to think about what they were saying/doing, they’d never do it. They spend most of their time dealing with repercussions caused by sudden, thoughtless, impulsive behavior.

The nice thing about this is that it makes them easier to forgive. When dealing with a Lear, a Leontes, several of the historical kings, anyone in a comedy, we have to like them or at least forgive them for their rashness at some point. If they go getting all pause-y and deliberate in the awful stuff they spit out during Act I (and as an actor, it can be very tempting to bite off some of these words with cold-blooded Sam-Jacksonorousness), we don’t care if they’re sad or if they’re dead in Act V. If Leonato or Lord Capulet slow down to make hateful pronouncements about their daughters, we close the iron door on them forever and label them as terrible parents and terrible human beings; if they fly off the handle in a weak moment, well, we, too, have flown off the handle now and then. We’re given some space to empathize with their regret.

The main difference, for a person hearing it all happen, is pacing. Both in the sense of speed, and in the sense of Atë walking back and forth on your head.

I bring her up at all because when preparing the summer editions, I noticed she came up twice: once when Benedicke, as quoted above, says of Beatrice (not present at the time):

          come, talke not of her, you shall find her the infernall Atë in good apparell…

And then up she pops again as Mark Antony predicts to Caesar’s corpse, that bleeding piece of former boss, that:

          Caesar’s Spirit, ranging for Revenge,

          With Atë by his side, come hot from Hell,

          Shall in these Confines, with a Monarke’s voyce,

          Cry ‘Havocke’, and let slip the Dogges of Warre,

          That this foule deede, shall smell above the earth

          With Carrion men, groaning for Buriall.

Tony is a little more vehement about things than Benedicke, which, considering the context, I’ll allow. Though I suppose since our audience this summer will have seen Much Ado a few weeks before Caesar, he could easily complete the transference and say “With Beatrice by his side, come hot from Hell”. Except she doesn’t go to Hell – just stops off there to deliver her apes.

But that’s another footnote.



*elsewhere Homer says she “is strong and sound on her feet”, which is probably because she’s so delicate with them, not touching the ground and all.

…but not gone – JULIUS CAESAR, III i

I don’t know what kind of self-respecting Shakespeare blog doesn’t manage a post on the Ides of March, but then I don’t know what sensible actor/dramaturg of Shakespeare schedules a minor medical test on the Ides of March either (all is well).


In all my excitement about the whole Benedicke thing I get to enjoy this summer, I’ve only begun to get excited about Caska. Also to notice the historical Servilius Caska had a kind of young-Chris Elliott vibe going.

Caska is the cranky-ass conspirator who, by leaping forth with his dagger (“Speak hands for me!”) and getting the ball rolling by getting Caesar in the neck*, enacts the political assassination equivalent of being the online commenter who types “FIRST!!!1!” (He also joined the civil war and is believed to have died in the wave of good ol’ Roman soldier ritual honor suicides that was going around toward the end of that same war. No big scene for Caska, though – it’s the so-called Stoic who gets a big emotional dramatic moment. But no hard feelings.)

With all due apologies and promise of safety to the fellow actor playing Caesar this summer (he’s also Bullingbrooke; perhaps a “you win some, you lose some” tattoo is in order for him), I am really looking forward to taking part in the mild therapy of that moment, in no small part because I, like you, have had my share of terrible bosses.

The one who groused when I asked to leave my mall retail shift early when I got a call asking me to go to my grandmother’s deathbed…and then asked if I had an estimation of when I’d be back.

A couple of college professors who would frankly be lucky to meet with a Pompey’s Porch ending and not the Suddenly, Last Summer situation likely after any reasonable polling of their students.

A director of Shakespeare I may have mentioned in this space before.

The person(s) responsible for the geographic placement of an arena which sits now in one of if not the worst possible site for that purpose here in Louisville.

I’m sure there are more I just can’t think of right now or for legal reasons should not speak of. More or less all the usual suspects as described in The Frantics’ 80’s comedy classic, “Boot to the Head”.

*It is generally believed that “to get it in the neck” didn’t appear until the mid-1800’s as a slang term for being the victim of literal or figurative mayhem, but I like to think it started with Caska. Though it was best framed by one of my personal favorites among the Classical philosophers, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, ca. 1923:

It seemed to me that everything was absolutely for the best in the best of all possible worlds. But have you ever noticed a rummy thing about life? I mean the way something always comes along to give it to you in the neck at the very moment when you’re feeling the most braced about things in general. No sooner had I dried the old limbs and shoved on the suiting and toddled into the sitting-room than the blow fell.

My grief lies onward and my joy behind* – SONNET 50



Because the scripts are finished at last.

I mean, they’re not printed or hole-punched or anything; that’s not my department.

But all the punctuation is bolded so as to be unavoidable and therefore dealt with. Period spelling is retained except where it was guaranteed to cause more harm than help. Judicious trimming has been done out of respect for our airplane-, siren-, darkness-, beersale-heavy urban surroundings, as well as the basic health of a group of actors who will have to do all three shows consecutively one afternoon/night in July (the racist parts are gone too – “Ethiope” hasn’t aged well, Mr. S.). Every expurgated “God” has been reinstated where the Folio was legally forced put “Heaven” in Richard II. Tiny histories of the individuals Shakespeare adhered to the biographies of when it was dramatically expedient. Every i dotted, and in some cases turned into a j.

And, this year, notes. So many notes. Notes that shouldn’t be overwhelming to have on hand, but were a little overwhelming to compile. Notes that I hope no one takes as insulting because you never know what words a person has come across or never had to say aloud or what a definition or paraphrase for clarity is going to trigger when learning lines and seeking to grok the situations in which the lines are spoken. And some are just thoughts about the bigger WTF moments: the “Leonato had a silent wife?” (solution: cut); the “who the hell is Woodstock, exactly” issue hanging over our heads (solution: prologue); and that whole thing with Portia’s “voluntary wound” in the thigh (solution: hope for the best).

Plus a few of those fancy “circles” from Ben & David Crystal’s Shakespeare’s Words book/site. I love those.

Which all means I can at last stop poring over every single line in three plays and start working on just those for which I’m responsible, lest I be embarrassingly bad on stage.

Always a concern. And if you’ve seen me on stage, a legitimate one.




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