BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Ambition, betrayal and violence will be displayed for three nights beginning this evening as the Bloomfield High School Thespian Society presents “Julius Caesar” as its fall production.
Producer and director Brandon Doemling, for his fall offerings, alternates between drama, comedy or something from the classical repertoire to provide his student cast members with experience in different types of theater. At a recent rehearsal, he said this particular play was part of the BHS curriculum, along with “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth,” so it made a good choice.
But it will also be a departure for Doemling. Ordinarily, the fall production is presented at the Westminster Arts Center where the actors do not wear microphones as they do when performing winter musicals in the BHS auditorium, where “Julius “Caesar” will be on display. The art center is currently unavailable because work is being done to its exterior.
“It’s a bigger stage here than at Westminster,” he said. “The actors have to wear mics in this space, but not in the other place.”
The microphones the actors use are worn on their heads. For Doemling, this head gear helped him decide how he would dress his actors. It was after seeing a Celtic punk band called the Dropkick Murphys play at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and thinking about the head mics, that he decided to outfit his troupe with a steampunk wardrobe.
According to “The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences,” a website, “Steampunk is modern technology — iPads, computers, robotics, air travel — powered by steam and set in the 1800s.” According to another website, the Urban Dictionary, steampunk could be described as, “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.”
With these definitions in mind, it is easier to understand why Doemling chose a steampunk-influence wardrobe with a cast of Roman Empire characters walking around the baths and Senate with microphones stuck to their heads.
“Steampunk is a relatively new phenomenon,” Doemling said. “It’s a lot of gears and gadgets, a mix of technology. It’s very costumey.”
Regardless of the cast’s liberation from togas, the script is not affected. Well, not that much. Julius Caesar is played by a girl, but most of the parts are played by girls.
“All of our best actors are female,” Doemling said. “I don’t ask female actors playing male roles to play males. I change the gender. It makes the relationship between Julius Caesar and his wife, Calpurnia, a gay relationship. I changed the pronouns.”
Doemling casted “12 Angry Men” the same way.
“I had ‘12 Angry Women,’” he said. “How are they going to get the sensibility of a male in Julius Caesar? They can. They can be just as bloodthirsty.”
There are 18 students in the cast; seven boys and 11 girls. The play has only two major female parts. Marc Antony is being performed by a freshman girl.
“I’ve never had to go the other way,” Doemling said, meaning he has never directed a play where boys had to play female roles.
The script is an edited version of Shakespearean prose. The running time of the play is two hours, with intermission. He said the play was a difficult one for the students because of its language, the pronunciation of its words and their meaning. The music will be recorded with a soundtrack of Celtic rock and Celtic punk music.
“But one student does sing a lullaby,” Doemling said, adding that Shakespeare sometimes wrote a lullaby into his work.
But the part of living, breathing Caesar, strutting upon the stage, is short-lived.
“Caesar gets killed in the first act,” Doemling said. “She comes back as a ghost.”
“Julius Caesar,” produced and directed by Brandon E. Doemling, will be presented at the BHS auditorium on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15, 16 and 17, respectively, at 7 p.m. Set design is by Ralph Turano; lighting design, Nicholas Von Hagel; costume design, Katherine Martinez. The props mistress is Bret Petrick. An admission fee is charged.