Bootleg Shakespeare returns with ‘Julius Caesar’ unlike you’ve ever seen it before
Calling all theatre buffs who want to get in on the Halloween fun! Quill Theatre presents the 8th annual Bootleg Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, written by William Shakespeare. In conjunction with ArtoberVA, the annual (and usually sell-out) event will be at the VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theatre this weekend with the tragedy of Julius Caesar.
Bootleg Shakespeare originally began at Taffety Punk Theatre in Washington, DC, where a group of graduates from the Academy of Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theatre in DC decided they wanted to produce something that came as close to how quick, down and dirty Shakespeare put together his plays.
To emulate the work of Shakespeare, Bootleg Shakespeare’s productions are put together at an accelerated pace. According to Foster Solomon, Producer of this year’s production, a show is picked and the director makes the cut for the script. All of this must be finalized within a month of show date. The actors then have 30 days to memorize their lines independently. Hours before the show, they meet for the first time to rehearse with props and costumes they have to provide themselves. The show is then performed in front of an audience for one time only.
Solomon has been involved with Bootleg Shakespeare for several years as either an actor or director, but he’s the mastermind behind this year’s show which has something special in store.
“We’ll have five different directors each working with five different groups of actors, each focusing on a different section of the Bard’s greatest political thriller,” said Jan Powell, Producing Artistic Director at Quill Theatre.
Powell told GayRVA that Quill Theatre has carried on Bootleg Shakespeare from Henley Street Theatre since it merged with Richmond Shakespeare Theatre back in 2013. Having been a popular production in Quill’s season over the years, many people look forward to the event and Quill has even had to move to the VMFA to accommodate its audience.
“We were looking for a way to make the work of it lighter and the fun of it greater than it’s been,” said Powell. “The program has been really successful and we wanted to make it even more successful and even more fun.”
To further spice up this year’s show, Solomon added a sort of ‘Mad Libs’ element to the show. Having applied “exquisite portrait” to playwriting, he, along with the five directors will all offer their own versions of their show-sections and it’s the producer’s job to sew them together.
“Basically, they are tasked with doing whatever they want concept wise, and my job is going to be trying to figure out how to transition from one concept to the next,” Solomon said. “It should just be a fun and exciting thing for the audience to see all of these different styles tell the same story from five different directors’ point of view.”
Bootleg always falls the week of Halloween to create a more crazy, festive atmosphere. This new twist to the show will also add to the element of surprise and keep the audience on the edge of their seat, according to Solomon.
Webb told GayRVA that she chose Julius Caesar for this year’s production of Bootleg Shakespeare because of the 2016 elections and Caesar is one of the most political plays Shakespeare has ever written. She is confident that the new format will add to the excitement of a show as well as making it more inclusive.
“Part of the idea with this project is that it’s kind of a big party,” said Powell. “It celebrates the really vital, active, and wonderful Richmond Theatre scene and we want to include everyone who would like to be a part of the show.”
According to Powell, the majority of people involved in the show are volunteers, which is why she thinks this format will be successful and continue with future Bootleg performances.
“This style enhances what we love most about Bootleg,” said Powell. “Which is the fun of it and it minimizes what was hardest about it, which was how much work we were asking people to put in.”
Bootleg Shakespeare: Julius Caesar will be held on October 29th, 2016 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in the Leslie Cheek Theater. It is a great Halloweekend event to take part in, if you are a fan of the Arts. This is a free performance, with tickets released at 5pm on the day of the show here.
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