Shakespeare classic gets a Japanese twist

 

Lantern Theater Company is performing Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar." Credit: Lantern Theater Company
Lantern Theater Company is performing Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.”
Credit: Lantern Theater Company

Friends, Romans, countrymen… well, two out of three ain’t bad, as Lantern Theater Company transplants Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” from ancient Rome to feudal Japan.

“We wanted to get away from all of the clichés and assumptions about classical Rome, with people walking about in togas and looking like statues from antiquity,” says artistic director Charles McMahon. “Our associations with that make it feel like we’re saying, ‘This is old, this is long in the past.’ But what Shakespeare is saying is not ‘This is Rome,’ but that this is a land long ago and far away with events that feel very current.”

More than four centuries later, the themes of “Julius Caesar” continue to feel current, but McMahon also wanted to avoid the specificity that comes with updating the play to the modern day. “We didn’t want to say this play is like Libya, or this play is like Central America or Russia or North Korea, because that’s not the point either. I think there’s something universal about it.”

McMahon soon realized that the stoicism of Caesar’s Rome had strong philosophical parallels with Japan’s tradition of Zen Buddhism. “The ideas in this play of being detached from the results of actions and being emotionally remote from the events of the world are present in the great samurai epics. So these themes all seemed to add up to feudal Japan being a very resonant scenic and thematic environment to put the play in.”

He then took the idea to scenic designer Meghan Jones, who ran with it, creating a look that incorporates Shoji screen architecture and traditional Japanese warrior clothing, while the sound design draws on Taiko drumming by Philly-based ensemble KyoDaiko. “With the battle scenes that happen in the play, you have to take this serene, well-balanced environment and create scenes of battles on an open field,” Jones explains. “With these design elements, I could take advantage of the Lantern’s intimate theater.”

McMahon and Jones also drew on the films of Akira Kurosawa, who famously transposed “Macbeth” to Japan in his film “Throne of Blood,” but they could also look to current events for inspiration. “Shakespeare wrote this play through an English lens at a time when the ideas of the Renaissance were taking hold in England,” McMahon says. “When he talks about Romans living free, he’s really writing about the English aristocrats of the time who wanted to maintain their rights and privileges rather than cede them to a strong executive. It’s like listening to political discussions nowadays, when people in the Senate talk about the president as if he were attempting to be an absolute monarch and take away their freedoms — nothing has changed.”

‘The Tragedy of Julius Caesar’
Feb. 6-March 16
St. Stephens Theater
10th and Ludlow streets
$20-$38, 215-829-0395
www.lanterntheater.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

Television

'Full House' might be relaunched with some of…

A new "Full House" might be in the works.

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.