Et tu, Dorval?
Repercussion Theatre is shaking things up in the park this season with an all-female production of William Shakespeare’s historical tragedy, Julius Caesar, that will be in Dorval at the end of the month.
This is the first time the 28-year-old company has staged the political drama, a script artistic director Amanda Kellock knew she wanted to do right away. The 12-actor, all-female cast was an “emotional” decision that would come later.
“It’s challenging. There’s still a real lack of gender parity in culture overall,” said Kellock, who also directed the production. Knowing she wanted to do the play, but that would mean casting only two women in the show, she decided to flip the script and cast only women.
Kellock joked that only a few Shakespeare plays would pass the “Bechdel Test,” a concept that seeks whether a movie (or in this case, play) features two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.
“It’s interesting to hear women having conversations that men have [in the show], because it reflects reality,” Kellock observed. “These women are talking about politics, war . . . and life.”
The nuances of gender bias also became clear during the rehearsal process.
Brutus’s political missteps would lead him to be completely dismissed if he were a female, while Cassius’s emotional outbursts would have him labelled as hysterical if he were a woman, she explained.
“Instead they are looked at as complex and fascinating because they are men.”
In order to have the cast exist as all-female, Kellock decided to set the production in a future where women choose the gender they identify with. The women who decide to enter politics and war call themselves men, while those who choose home and motherhood call themselves women.
“They have decided to maintain the gender binary that we’re currently trying to get away from,” she observed.
The future Rome society is punctuated with live, original drumming by a female percussionist.
And for families who worry that a show about war and politics may not be suitable for children, Kellock insists that youngsters have been riveted so far and that violence is artfully staged, inspired by the dance-like martial art, Capoeira.
French on your phone
In another first, Repercussion Theatre worked with Plank Design to offer Francophone audiences the ability to follow along with the show on their smartphones.
The project is the result of an arts and culture “Hack Day” at the digital design company. The stage manager hits a button that lets users of the web-based app (so no downloading) know where they are in the script.
“In the past we’ve done shows bilingually or with parts in French and in English, or select performances in French, but it’s really complicated and expensive to do that,” explained Kellock.
She added that a lot of Francophones want to hear the text in the original language and follow along in French for comprehension—something that native English speakers may also find useful down the line.
The app was free this year, thanks to the collaboration with Plank, but in the future Repercussion Theatre will look into funding for these kinds of projects.
Julius Caesar will be at Dorval’s Pine Beach Park, Lakeshore Dr. and Pine Beach Blvd., Thursday, July 28 at 7 p.m. admission is by donation. For other parks, visit repercussiontheatre.com until Aug. 7.