Fans of Shakespeare's masterpieces and stunning acting will enjoy a night under the stars for as The Hudson Shakespeare Company (HSC) presents one of the Bard's most recognizable plays.
HSC Director Jon Ciccarelli says that there are many things about Caesar that locals can enjoy:
"Familiarity...names and titles you recognize from school. Pop culturally, there are characters that live outside of the plays," said Ciccarelli. "Also Shakespeare has become a summer tradition."
Union City residents are in for an evening of misinterpreted motives, back-stabbing companions, and energetic sword play, as they travel back to the troubled times of the Roman Empire.
"This has been one of our most well-received plays in Union City," explained Ciccarelli. Viewers marvel at Caesar for its historical significance and "it's fast paced action and a lot of sword play."
Union City's venue, Ellsworth Park, offered the director a challenging set to design: "It is interesting from other parks that we [perform in] because it is on different levels, three-tiered like a layered cake." Ciccarelli said, "You need to be economical with your fight scenes, to operate in a smaller space. Also the intimate seating is good."
The close-quartered audience becomes interactive as the actors have an opportunity to enter and exit from all sides on the park.
"It's the crème de la crème of theater," said Ciccarelli. "Shakespeare offers the most challenging and rewarding experiences for an actor."
The Hudson Shakespeare Company has been producing free plays in parks across Hudson County since 1992. This is the acting group's seventeenth season, and within the more than eighty productions, they have covered almost all of William Shakespeare's most famous works. However, director Jon Ciccarelli is excited for this year's staging of Julius Caesar in August: "lots of action and sword fighting!"
The HSC has always stayed true to essence of the Bard's outdoor events.
"Being outside, as opposed to being indoors, where you are too confined," said Ciccarelli, "you are more interactive with the audience, and you get back to Shakespeare's day."
In sixteenth century England, the hottest entertainment came from an immortal outdoor arena, the Globe Theater, which was home to so many of Shakespeare's characters.
A modern twist
Caesar, a tale of political power, corruption, friendship, and revenge, is most famously known for its deadly male characters: Brutus, Cicero, and Flavius. Yet, under the director's unique vision, Ciccarelli has constructed an all female cast.
"With a mix of Romanesque and modern costuming, we are trying to bring more references to goddesses," he said.
This bold statement is a direct contrast to the late Renaissance time period, when women were not allowed to act on stage. Shakespeare had to substitute adolescent boys in place of his queens and sisters. The all-female cast brings another level of intrigue to the mysterious play set in the male-dominated ancient Rome.
"There is something that intrigues the viewers about Shakespeare's plays," said Ryan Weatherford, a recent graduate of Emerson High School. "In school, my favorite play was Hamlet, but I am looking forward to this production of Julius Caesar because it is not in our curriculum. This is a chance to see something new."
The HSC takes a particular interest in education, being that Shakespeare is a core piece of any high school student's studies.
"Initially, we did Julius Caesar for the schools, in our spring program," said Ciccarelli. "We would like to host more workshops for places in our touring group like 'Shakespeare 101,' 'Shakespeare on camera,' and 'stage combat.'"
Jon likes coming to Union City for the diverse population.
"It has been really interesting when some residents have compared and contrasted Shakespearean plays they have seen in other countries," said Ciccarelli.
Shakespeare's universal themes, timeless characters, and everlasting conflicts of inner struggle appeal to everyone throughout the globe.
The company started in Jersey City's Hamilton Park seventeen years ago, and remained in Hudson County parks for many years. However, in the last half of the decade they have expanded their talented touring base to include other counties in Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, and Manhattan.
The HSC will present a free performance of "Julius Caesar" on Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. at Ellsworth Park, on the corner of New York Ave. and 23rd St. For more information about upcoming shows, visit: www.hudsonshakespeare.org.
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