BWW Interview: JULIUS CAESAR Producer and Director Discuss All Female Production
The Irreverent Shakespeare Project presents an all-female version of Julius Caesar, directed by Heather Ann Gottlieb, produced by Steven Brandon, Mark Laird, Bradley Gosnell, Rachel Rios and Ari Stidham. Director Gottlieb and producer Stidham took time out of their busy schedules and talked with us about the company and this production of Julius Caesar.
Ari Stidham has been writing and performing music and comedy onstage as well as acting on television for all his adult life. You may know him best as genius Sylvester Dodd on CBS's "Scorpion" or you may also know his music which he releases as Dr. Television.
Ari has also produced films that have premiered at Fangoria Fear Con ("Curse of the Siren" - also director) and Sundance Film Festival ("Clara's Ghost"). Original plays performed in L.A. include Theatricus Americanus (Pack, also director) Dick Duquesne Radio Plays (Open Space)
Tell our readers about the Irreverent Shakespeare Co.
I started the Irreverent Shakespeare Project with a free invite only event that lasted a few weekends at a house in Tarzana, mainly with friends and collaborators I'd worked with previously. Ashley Tavares, Bradley Gosnell, Rachel Rios, Jordan Stidham and Jake Shillan to be accurate. We put on Midsummer Night's Dream, twice, and Mark Laird helped us produce it that second time.
Our goal was to produce a take on the Bard's work that connected with modern audiences. After our first run it was clear we had something to nurture in ISP and the idea to do Caesar came about because of the strong female actors we worked with on Midsummer.
Talk more specifically about Julius Caesar and give us a sneak peek at some of the crazy things you are doing with it.
Specifically bo-staff warfare. I repeat: bo staff fighting and warfare. Something also fun and of note that you can expect is a shorter, more intimate take on Caesar than you may be used to. Our abridged cut moves at a decent clip, as do most ISP shows.
Talk about your music and TV gigs.
Dr. Television is Ari Stidham and vice versa, I released an album called "Jacuzzi Louie" independently and have been playing around LA a bit with my talented band, lead by Hughie Stone Fish (Solo Must Die) - currently I'm composing music to Shakespeare's lyrics for a production of "Twelfth Night" coming soon from ISP.
Back to the play, if I missed anything, add what you wish.
Bradley Gosnell, our producer/fight choreographer, co-set designed this production with me, and we tailored to the work to his choreography, he's really done some great work with the staging of the battle at Phillipi.
Heather (Ann Gottlieb) has done a great job of humanizing the story of these conspirators and finding common ground with modern audiences by casting unique performers and directing clear and different performances, defining our conspirators in a way I've never seen before.
Rachel Rios' costume design is rich and imaginative, which frames our show in a familiar yet dissonant version of golden Rome.
Tell us about your cast.
Nefe Iredia is portraying Caesar in this production and she plays him so clearly with such ease, it's a snapshot the tyrant I am eager to share with the world. Delaney Milbourn, our Brutus, has a wonderful command of the text and stands out in every show I've ever seen her in. Same with Michelle Wicklas, our Antony, who performs regularly at Will Geer's Botanicum. Also talented actor and performer in her own right, Beverlee Jean, our Octavius, can also be heard hosting Shakey Understanding, her podcast. It explores Shakespeare's plays with actors portraying his own characters live and in studio.
Do you wish to add anything?
A song can change and be performed a million ways, but the story stays the same. So too, with Caesar.
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Heather Ann Gottlieb is an award winning playwright and poet. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, at age 10 she began performing in community theatre across the valley, including Phoenix Theatre, Greasepaint, Metro, and TheatreWorks.
In 2015, she received her BA in Theatre Arts from Loyola Marymount University. Beth Henley awarded her the department's "Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting" award. She also regularly competes at Bootleg Theater's Write Club event, raising money for charity through literary bloodsport.
Tell our readers how you became involved with the Irreverent Shakespeare Co and Julius Caesar.
I was approached by my friend Rachel Rios, ISP's Costume Designer, about directing Caesar. We were classmates at Loyola Marymount University, and she's familiar with both my writing/directing styles and feminist agenda. She threw my name into the mix of potential directors, and I'm happy to say it was a fit! I've only directed short-form modern pieces, so it was an interesting challenge for my first full-length production to be in verse. I am extremely lucky to have been supported by such a professional, dedicated team.
Talk about your casting.
When discussing casting, Ari and I went back and forth many times before deciding on an all-female cast. In the end, it was the most powerful choice that simultaneously stripped the script of traditional gender-roles and brought clarity to the true driving force of the story: power, the desire and chase for it, and how it changes once you actually get it.
What has been your greatest challenge as director?
Each cast member had a different level of experience with Shakespeare, so we spent a large portion of the rehearsal process doing table-work. For me, it was important to get everyone on the same page about text and dissect themes together. It was also helpful to have Ari and Bradley, who cut the script together, answer questions that arose throughout our bookwork.
What would you like audiences to take away?
Honestly, I'd love if the audience left thinking "Wow, women are f*cking powerful."
Describe the overall collaboration.
This process has been extremely collaborative. Producer Bradley Gosnell took the reigns for Act V and crafted great combat moments. Ari, our executive producer and ISP's Creative Director, helped tremendously with dramaturgy and handled production needs. Producer Mark Laird made himself available for costume and prop needs, and costume designer Rachel Rios worked tirelessly from across the country. Jimmy McCammon, our Tech Director, was able to design an entire show top-to-bottom after one two-hour coffee meeting! Also, the cast is full of badass and extremely talented artists. This show is a labor of love and I'm thrilled to share it.
The Irreverent Shakespeare Project is mounting its third production of 2018 with Julius Caesar. Directed by Heather Ann Gottlieb, with a cast of familiar faces from ISP's Midsummer Night's Dream that fill out the bard's tale of conspiracy and intrigue.
This show is performed outdoors at a private residence in Tarzana on Nov 29, 30, and Dec 1. It's performed outdoors at a private residence in South Pasadena on Dec 7, 8 and 9. The run concludes December 15 at the Hudson Loft, 1200 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles.
For complete info and to purchase tix, go to: