August 4-September 2
Cambridge Battery, Point Pleasant Park
In June, New York's Public Theater lost the support of two corporate sponsors that objected to its production of Julius Caesar, which portrayed the titular character as a Donald Trump-like dictator. (Spoiler alert from 500 years ago: Caesar is quite assassinated.) It sparked conversations about the funding of art, what kind of power sponsors were buying in exchange for power over artistic decisions, and most importantly—especially if you were Shakespeare By The Sea, just beginning rehearsals on your own production of Caesar—how the Bard's work manages to stay trending.
"They went right for it. in a high-profile way," says Jesse MacLean, SBTS's co-artistic director and helmer of the show. "People ask us why Shakespeare is still relevant, and this is one of those times—this is one of of the most political statements of the year, at least in the theatre community. We should all be on guard against tyranny and authoritarianism."
SBTS last staged Julius Caesar in 2010—in a considerably different political climate, MacLean notes—around the Martello Tower in Point Pleasant Park, and before that in 2000 at the courthouse on Spring Garden Road. This production, opening Friday, will play out against the spacious backdrop of the park's Cambridge Battery.
"It does give you that sort of sense of military structure mixed with the magical," says MacLean. "People tell us all the time that they feel like it's a magical place to see a show."
While there's no Trump figure in this show, SBTS has added to Julius Caesar its own typical contemporary flair, placing it in the "near future," adding touches like dressing the conspirators as modern-day protestors inspired by resistance movements worldwide. "It's not quite a wasteland yet—50 years before Mad Max, is what we've been saying," says MacLean. "Shit's going down. It hasn't quite gone down yet, but it's going to."