Notes from the Director
A Play about Us
“…. when did it become okay for one person to the boss of everybody??? Huh?!?! Because that’s NOT what Rome is about! WE SHOULD TOTALLY JUST STAB CAESAR!”
– Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls
Though thought to be just a clueless Plastic, Ms. Weiners manages to do what so many of us have a hard time doing with Julius Caesar: she relates the themes, emotions, and struggles of the characters to her own life. In Mean Girls, the object of her resentment is Regina George, a girl whose first name literally means “Queen.” In Julius Caesar, the Senators’ fear of Caesar as “King,” leads to their bloody coup. It’s pretty smart stuff for a high school comedy but it’s downright daring for an Elizabethan tragedy. Shakespeare knew this stuff was about him and his country: the brand new super power of England.
Shakespeare knew how his England would be reflected in the scenes of Julius Caesar. Like the Rome he creates in the play, his country is powerful and wealthy. It is ruled by a single person. That person is without an heir. That person is in constant danger of assassination and revolt. A sick country that longs to be made well. But how?
Shakespeare was smart enough to be very careful about cloaking his allegiances in ambiguity. He suggests that tyranny is bad, but is perhaps better than chaos. He doesn’t offend Elizabeth I and the groundlings love it too! Whose side is he on? By refusing to answer this question, he creates a play that is both radical and conservative. Passionate and reasoned. Noble and seedy. Political and personal. It is a play that is many things, but make no mistake: it is about us. The play reflects not only our love of country and democracy, but the love between husbands and wives, the love of brothers-in-arms, the love of fathers and sons, and perhaps most importantly, our purported love of fairness and equality.
The United States of America is very clearly the new Rome and as we have inherited the mantle of Super Power from our Roman ancestors, we likewise have taken on their problems, their shames, and their fears.
The Plebeians in the oration scene are constantly yelling “Let us hear…” and I hope that is what you will do during the show tonight. Hear. Whether it is political discourse between senator and consul or domestic quarreling between husband and wife, I hope you will hear yourself in those arguments. This play is about us. How closely we resemble this Rome depends entirely on how carefully we listen.