Et Tu, Britney?: Gender-Swapped Shakespearean Play Wows

Photo by David Khorassani.

Beware the Ides of March because on March 15, the Queen Bee of an-all girls boarding school will be executed by her closest companions.

In guest director Lauren Bone Noble’s production of “Julius Caesar,” the adjunct lecturer of theatre arts transported hundreds of viewers into an unusual retelling of an age- old Shakespearean classic. Bone Noble’s production ran for eight shows, and on Nov. 22 the cast captivated their last crowd. The gender swapped version of this tragedy pushed all of the boundaries expected of a play originally crafted in 1599.

According to Bone Noble, she created this one–of–a–kind concept based on the movie “Mean Girls,” the “Harry Potter” series, the timeless novel “Lord of the Flies” and even a Rolling Stone article.

“I was interested in doing an-all female version but that seemed rather vague,” she said. “The idea to set the play in a boarding school for girls popped into my mind one day and wouldn’t go away.”

Bone Noble said that several months of work went into constructing the elaborate set adorned with ivy running along the outside of a faux brick building.

Everything from the ornate stage constructions to the garb adorned by the preppy Roman schoolgirls was calculated to a T. The performance seamlessly incorporated the old elements of this time–honored standard, but with an individualistic spin at every twist and turn of this fast paced action packed thriller.

The avant–garde spectacle transformed the work into a modern day case of petty mean girls violently turning on one another in the name of homecoming queen royalty. Julius Caesar has been re–imagined as a popular girl and the “face” of Rome Preparatory Academy.

“I think that seeing how catty and vicious girls can be heightened the circumstances in the show,” fourth year theatre major Harley Putzer said. “Instead of seeing a bunch of old guys dressed in togas, the audience got to see a show that is much more relatable to society today.”

According to Putzer, who played a plebian in the show, the cast worked with fight choreographer John Hayden. She said that working alongside Hayden helped her to become more comfortable working with her fellow actors in combat scenes.

“I left every rehearsal that we worked on the fight choreography more and more excited for the show to open,” she said.

Assistant professors in the theatre department played the two soothsayers.  Instead of dressing as old hags cloaked in black they were janitors listening to MP3 players. In order to separate the different acts, the words futuristically appeared across a ledge onstage in neon blue letters while ominous music played throughout the lofty Globe Theatre.

At the start of the performance, one of the actresses stood on stage speaking in Shakespearean tongues. The cloaked maiden gave the typical instructions to the congregation of playgoers, but the audience roared with laughter at the  outdated way she worded her advisements.

“Shakespeare is incredibly difficult material,” Bone Noble said. “I wanted to create a piece of theatre that would be more approachable not only to the student actors but to the audience as well. By modernizing the setting and lowering the age, I hope I accomplished that goal.”

Fourth-year double major in theatre and communications Spencer Cohen attended one of the performances, and he found this new take on an old favorite to be incredibly compelling.

“I really enjoyed the spectacle of this show; it was very unique,” Cohen said.