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For ever, and for ever farewell, Brutus! / If we do meet again, we’ll smile indeed

Cassius, V.i

Hello again from your friend Louis Butelli. I’ll be returning to the Folger Theatre this fall to play Cassius in Robert Richmond’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Tickets are now on sale: click here to get yours.

Alex Webb (Julius Caesar), Aquila ensemble, Julius Caesar. Folger Theatre's presentation of Aquila Theatre Company, 2000. Directed by Robert Richmond. Ken Cobb.

Alex Webb (Julius Caesar), Aquila ensemble, Julius Caesar. Folger Theatre’s presentation of Aquila Theatre Company, 2000. Directed by Robert Richmond. Ken Cobb.

In the play, Cassius is an instigator, a loyal and passionate friend to Brutus, a hot head and, ultimately, a suicide. He is an historical figure, a “real man” who had an incredible career, a wife and a son. He is also a doomed figure, a symbol of treachery, placed by Dante with Brutus and Judas Iscariot in one of Satan’s three mouths in the center of Hell. How on earth does an actor play that? Where does one even begin?

I should disclose that I have played Cassius before. In fact, I have played Cassius at the Folger, under the direction of Robert Richmond, opposite Anthony Cochrane as Brutus, the same role he is playing this fall. It is humbling and satisfying to be reunited with them, especially considering the fact that the last time we three collaborated on this play, in this theater, was in the year 2000, some 14 years ago.

I remember playing Act IV, scene 3, the “tent scene” between Cassius and Brutus, wherein the two men rage against each other for slights both real and perceived, and learn of Portia’s fate. Or, more specifically, I remember standing in the stage right wing terrified to go on: Louis the actor, through the entirety of the run, was convinced he was not up to the task. Some of the same fears hold true 14 years later.

John Gielgud (left) and James Mason in the film adaptation of Julius Caesar. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1953.

John Gielgud (left) and James Mason in the film adaptation of Julius Caesar. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1953.

There are other recollections I have about that production: a modern military aesthetic, a stylized crowd scene, an enormous blue fabric from which Caesar’s ghost emerged. Also, the amazing John Gielgud, who played Cassius in Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1953 film adaptation of Julius Caesar, died during the run of our show. The theater placed a small memorial to Sir John in the lobby, and it felt as if we were paying him a small tribute each night. This didn’t do much to soothe my nerves,– those sweet, sweet bells jangled out of tune.

Tune in next time as I dive into some character work for Cassius. Look out for some epicurean explanation!