***I do not speak for the Yellow Springs Theater Company as an entity; this is entirely my own opinion and about my experience being in this production. I am completely responsible for everything contained herein***
I grew up acting. My first role was a lead, John Henry West in a production of Member of the Wedding. I acted all through school. Yellow Springs has long been a hotbed of actors; John Lithgow, who grew up here, is the son of Arthur Lithgow, who oversaw the nationally-recognized Summer Shakespeare Festival at Antioch College, the first such festival to perform the entire catalog. In the past several years, Yellow Springs Theater Company has revived the festival. And though it hath been nearly five years since last I trod the boards–as Judge Danforth in a production of The Crucible that staged the last act in Guantanamo Bay Prison, with me ordering the torture of John Proctor–I am returning to the stage as Julius Caesar in a production of the eponymous Shakespearian drama.
Those who are or have been involved in theater will probably attest that there are times in which you understand that you’ve been called, gathered, appointed, anointed, and commissioned to do a particular show. It is as if Thespis of Icara is calling to us in the fullness of time, reminding us of our sacred duty. Art matters. It is the stuff of revolutions; it is a playing out of our hopes and fears, it is dealing with the complexities of life in intense, raw, and vulnerable expression that capitalism can’t touch. Not when you do it for the people, without charge, because you truly believe that at this particular place, in this particular time, with these particular players, you are going to say something. You are going to use a vehicle that is as timeless as so-called Western Civilization, and you’re going to speak to the immediacy of now.
I have often hesitated to call myself an actor because let’s be honest: this place produces superstars. Dave Chappelle, Trace Lysette, Kat Livingston, Martin Bakari, Bruce Cromer, Michael Malarkey, and I’m only naming people who work on a stage or a set. The musicians’ list is even more insanely packed. Like, for reals. The Shire is a great place to be of an artistic bent. But being in a local theater company has helped me understand that actors are about the work. Everyone I listed above would tell you that even if they did not make money for doing what they do, they would still do what they are doing. I love to act. The discovery of the director’s vision, of your castmates and their characters, of the relationships that impact the internal work every actor must do to discover the way they are meant to tell the story. My Caesar is a bit cheeky because it is written right into the text, but he is also passionate and feels he is ordained to rule the world. Yet, he has a serious illness and is surrounded by a contingent of people who represent dangers most imminent. My Caesar tries to disarm people with charm; if that does not work, he will dispatch you with the fullness of power, which I also bring out in my death scene. This is a great journey.
What is fascinating is that Julius Caesar is being performed in a lot of places, and now the running tradition of casting Caesar as a current or previous president has suddenly become relevant to reactionary, right-wing “activists” who think the scary liberals are fomenting insurrection for a Maoist take-over of the government, something already started by Bernie Sanders and George Soros, don’t you know? Because they heard that some fancy-pants lesbians–you know, that Greek word for actors–are killing Trump on stage, it is obviously a clear signal to Black Lives Matter to once again dishonor Dr. King by blocking traffic because when they won’t comply with “simple orders,” cops have no choice but to kill them. Whether by chokehold or multiple GSWs will depend on the particular situation. Meanwhile, the scientists and alternative energy lobbyists kill literally tens of thousands of obsolete, deadly jobs by pushing the leftist climate-change agenda–not to be confused with the gay agenda, mind you–of the DemocRAT Party (shhhh, it doesn’t matter that Republicans control everything right now). All across the country, some of these people are reasoning, lusty liberals are suddenly deciding to disrespect the president by killing him. Gasp! And they must be protested!
But here’s the deal: anyone who knows anything about theater knows that seasons are planned out well, WELL ahead of time. The Muses made it clear, to companies across the land, that now it is time to bring Julius Caesar to the fore once again.
This is the part of a lifetime for this time in life. I am so grateful.
Stay tuned for more blogs on the production, and be sure to come out and see the show. I promise, you will not regret it!!