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

Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.

National

Miss America thinks school should reconsider discipline of…

A Pa. student was suspended for asking Miss America to prom.

Local

Aria Health Torresdale workers caught selling prescription drugs

Two Aria Health at Torresdale employees were fired amid accusations they sold prescription drugs out of the Northeast Philadelphia campus.

National

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter died Sunday from prostate cancer…

Former U.S. professional boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who spent 19 years in prison for murder and then was released after it was determined he did not get a fair trial,…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.