BWW Interviews: The Cast of CALIGULA Discusses Debut of the Tragedy in Hagerstown
Though it's only June, if you're already tired of glittering summer stock musicals and comedy productions, a definite change of pace is available in Hagerstown beginning June 13. Caligula, a tragedy, will mark the debut production of The Student Stage Actors Guild in Hagerstown, MD at the Academy Theater.
"Caligula is intense, dynamic, dark and maybe even a bit daring. This show is an awesome display of a mad emperor and his grotesque and tyrannical reign over Rome" said Lawson Cade, who plays Helicon.
Caligula tells the story of a Roman emperor who is driven to madness after the death of his sister and lover. He wants to destroy all evil in the world in pursuit of "The Absolute" and rejects all forms of friendship and love he knows in favor of murder instead. Through speeches and insane ramblings, he causes the events and circumstances in his present day society which eventually may lead to his own assassination.
"Caligula brings a kind of theatre that has been lacking in Hagerstown for quite some time: the tragedy. With theatre companies offering a slew of comedies, musicals, and farces, The Student Stage Actors Guild is determined to bring different aspects of the human condition to light through this desperate show about passion, understanding, and fear. Caligula is the dark story of the young Roman Emperor who is beset with grief at the realization of the fragility of life, and all the pain that accompanies that fragility. This story offers unique insight into the mind of one of the most obscene Roman emperors to ever live. Riddled with deception, despair, and madness, Caligula aims to make us question our values, our beliefs, and our love" said director Hampton Cade.
"This production has a great deal of heart, with a main character who is insanely cruel, but still sympathetic. It is not the typical light- hearted comedy, but a tragedy that forces us to question our beliefs" said Diane Draper, who plays Meria.
"This production is very heavy and dark. The ideas behind Caligula's speeches and actions are radical to the characters who are around and interact with the emperor, and even sound ridiculous to the audience as well. The cool thing is that the speeches might sound crazy to us, but they are not completely out of this world. They [the speeches] include questions and dreams that people strive for and wonder about" said Lawson Cade.
The cast had a very interesting and intense rehearsal process while preparing to perform this tragedy.
"I think the most challenging part of rehearsal for me is to try and get into the mindset of my character. He is not like any other character in this show. He has a love/hate relationship toward Caligula, so it is sometimes difficult to figure out when to hate or admire Caligula" said Andrew Payne, who plays Scipio.
"It is interesting to watch the development and progression of Caligula and those around him. There are so many layers to him and this show. It is fun to be able to peel them back, one by one and go deeper into the psyche of these characters to see what makes them tick. It is engrossing." said Josiah Hixon,who plays the title role.
"The level of commitment my actors gave me may have been the most exciting thing about doing this show. They trusted me to put them into characters that challenged their understanding of things, or forced them to be wildly different than anything they were used to. I'm truly privileged to have such a cast of actors at my disposal" added Hampton Cade.
In addition to a unique subject matter and rarely-performed worked, this tragedy is also the debut production for The Student Stage Actors Guild and director Hampton Cade makes his directorial debut with the theater organization.
"One of the most interesting aspects of our show is that it is being completely student produced. From the director, the actors, and the tech crew, almost everyone involved in the show is a student. It really pleases me to see a work like this in Hagerstown and it really shows that the youth around here have a deep rooted passion for theatre" said Ashley Warfield, who plays Senectus.
"As actors, we are all friends. This provides a unique working experience. Over the past few weeks, we have encouraged and supported each other as friends and professionals" said Anne Hunt, who plays Caesonia.
"Caligula is nothing like what people have seen before. It is a tragedy that has hope, sorrow and even a bit of dark comedy in it" said Andrew Payne.
"Caligula is a great drama. Audiences will experience a roller coaster of emotions as they watch the character of Caligula search for The Absolute, which ultimately leads to his downfall. This production is thought provoking and intriguing" added Hunt.
The Student Stage Actors Guild production of Caligula also features Sean Besecker as Cherea, Jacob Waeyaert as Octavius and Madeline Harmon Cassius. Caligula will run June 13 and 14 at 7:00 PM and June 15 at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $6 for students with a valid student I.D. All performances occur at the Academy Theater, at 58 East Washington Street in Hagerstown, Maryland.
"This tragedy will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Audience members will have to decide for themselves whether they should hate Caligula, or simply feel sorry for the man who not only lost his footing in the world, but also his mind. Caligula is a drama like none the Hagerstown area has experienced before" said Ashley Warfield .
Photo Credit: Hampton Cade