The Southern California Shakespeare Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary season Sept. 13 to Oct. 5 by adding role reversal to one of the bard’s best-known works, “Julius Caesar.”
The play recounts the conspiracy against the ambitious Roman ruler; his assassination; and the conspirators’ fates, including that of their leader, Brutus, who some scholars have speculated may have been Caesar’s illegitimate son.
The performances will be held at the Cal Poly Pomona Studio Theatre in Building 25. Here’s the twist to this year’s production: festival founder and Theatre Professor Linda Bisesti will play Caesar.
“We wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival and investigate the political climate that is about to open with the 2016 elections,” Bisesti says. “We decided to cast Caesar as a woman because there’s the possibility of having a woman for president.”
Bisesti knows that theatergoers may have different reactions to seeing a female Caesar: some may balk at having a woman play a man’s role; some may not care. Others may find it fascinating, while still more may see it as advocating for a female president.
“That’s not the case at all. It’s just examining what it’s like to have a woman in power,” she says.
Having a female play a male character is not new in theatre at Cal Poly Pomona. Samantha Girod, a second-year theatre student who has a supporting role in “Julius Caesar,” played a man in “Bedroom Farce” last fall. She prepared for that part by observing men and talking with her roommate’s boyfriend.
“It was really fun. I wasn’t trying to act more masculine,” she recalls. “At the same time, I was trying to be different.”
Although “Julius Caesar” tells a story from before the time of Christ, this production will have a 21st-century costume and set design, Bisesti says.
The cast and crew will include students, alumni and professional actors.
Bisesti founded the festival at Cal Poly Pomona 10 years ago as a way to give students an opportunity to work with and perform alongside stage professionals. It’s the only festival of its kind still performing in the CSU, she says.
The Studio Theatre seats only 81, and the festival usually sells out. The Sept. 13 and Sept. 26 shows are already sold out. Tickets are $12 for seniors, students, faculty and staff or $15 for general admission and are available for sale online.
Phone reservations are taken only 90 minutes before each show. Shows start promptly, and tickets that are not picked up five minutes before curtain will be released. For more information, call 909-869-3987.