Michael Almereyda's 2000 film Hamlet was set in modern times, using Shakespearean dialogue. Other updates have been reinterpretations of the story line, such as 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew) and very loose interpretations such as Strange Brew (Hamlet).
Aaron Bogard, Artist in Residence for the Center for the Performing Arts at Debaun Auditorium in Hoboken, and founder of "Shakespeare, the Box Set Tour," is getting a head start on modernizing the bard with a production of Julius Caesar set 70 years in the future. The production will be presented at Debaun Auditorium on Saturday, April 2 at 3 and 8 p.m.
Why the Boxed Set Tour?
"I want to promote it like a rock tour," said Bogad. "The Rolling Stones don't just go out to promote an album anymore; they go out in support of their boxed set of albums. I figured Shakespeare is like the ultimate for playwrights, and over time we want to be able to promote all of his shows."
Although Shakespeare is often considered to be the pinnacle of high art, Bogard pointed out that the bard was actually written to be accessible to the masses.
"When these plays came out, it was the equivalent of a blockbuster motion picture, Will Smith fighting aliens. It was for average, middle-class people," said Bogad. "Too often, we think of Shakespeare as some dry old Laurence Olivier kind of thing and that's why people are scared of it, and that's why they think they don't like it. But what's not to like? It's sex, violence and poetry."
And presenting Shakespeare in an authentic manner people can relate to is Bogad's goal.
"Shakespeare isn't hard, but people are afraid of it," he said. "In school, you're forced to read it, and it's difficult because it's in another language and it's not presented in an accessible manner," Bogad said. "When you remember that Shakespeare was populist entertainment, for us to present them in some kind of hoity-toity way is to lose the spirit of what they were intended to be."
Bogad's blockbuster version of Julius Caesar takes place 70 years in the future after a catastrophic event has occurred, wreaking havoc on the East Coast of the United States. The original Julius Caesar is about the ambitions and assassination of Julius Caesar and what happens to the Roman Empire afterwards.
Eight actors are part of the production, which since October has also performed Romeo and Juliet and Taming of the Shrew. Bogad said that the company is available to perform those shows too, as they are a repertory theater group.
Casting call drew locals
The casting call lasted for two days and brought a total of 110 actors from Hoboken, Jersey City, and New York. Some were professional actors, seasoned in Shakespeare, or professional actors without the Shakespeare experience.
The Boxed Set Tour is a co-production of The Center for the Performing Arts and DeBaun Auditorium. They're housed by DeBaun but play anywhere from conference centers and cafetoriums to the 400 seat DeBaun Auditorium.
Currently part of the team are Barthelemy Astin as Julius Caesar, Axel Avin as Cassius, Nicholas Urda as Brutus, Michael Schreiber as Anthony, Sara Mayer as Portia, Cristina Maria Vivenzio as Calpurina, Robert Schreiber as Cato, and Kyle Masteller as Cimber.
Most of the actors currently also work in off-Broadway shows. Occasionally, an actor will move on and have to be replaced.
"Since I'm using young actors, it's their pre-discovery," said Bogad. "When you see our work, you can tell these actors and their work is really where the future of the American entertainment scene lives. They're approachable and very aware of their entertainment value they know how entertaining this material should be."
Bogad is one of five Artists in Residents, specializing in Shakespeare. Others specialize in playwrights, choreography, visual arts, and spoken word. It's his second season with DeBaun. He also teaches acting workshops, including a basic acting workshop, a Shakespearean acting workshop, and in April, an improv/ sketch comedy class.
Debaun Auditorium is located at Fifth and Hudson Streets in Hoboken. Tickets are $10, Showtimes are April 2, 3 and 8 p.m.