Rachel Kohler wanted to use the theater to help trigger a conversation about the current political climate in the United States.
To do that, it made sense for Kohler, who has a Master of Fine Art degree in Shakespearean dramaturgy, to turn to the works of the Bard — specifically "Julius Caesar," which Kohler calls Shakespeare's "most explicitly political play."
And it also made sense, while trimming the play, to end it after the third act, which ends with the assassination of Caesar. The result, which Kohler calls "The Rise and Fall of Julius Caesar," is a meditation on political ego and how public opinion can be manipulated.
Kohler has teamed up with director Brooke Bishop to stage this production on Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, 2945 NW Circle Blvd. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Proceeds from the production will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. (Kohler and Bishop both note for the record that this is not an official ACLU event.)
To add to the degree of difficulty, the cast of the production includes some novice actors. And for many of the actors, this marks their first on-stage encounter with Shakespeare.
That's OK with Bishop, who worked with the City Shakespeare Company in Los Angeles before moving to Corvallis with her partner, Daniel Landberg (who wrote the music that will be used in the production).
"To be honest, being new to Shakespeare can be beneficial to an actor in so many ways, because they don't have as many preconceived ideas of how to 'do' Shakespeare," Bishop said in an email. "They tend to speak colloquially, clearly, and with presence and grounding. There's less 'technique' getting between them and connecting authentically to their scene partners and the audience."
And even though the poster for the production places a "Make Rome Great Again" cap on top of a bust of Caesar, Kohler said the idea is not to turn the production into an indictment of the current administration.
"The thesis is less 'Donald Trump is bad,' than it is 'we need to have a dialogue about how we determine who runs this country,'" she said.