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NSR’s ‘Julius Caesar’ reinvents student theater for age of COVID

| Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mary O'Reilly | The Observer

From wearing masks to virtual “Bachelorette” watch parties to Zoom University to the HERE™ campaigns flooding Notre Dame’s campus, COVID-19 has impacted students’ lives significantly. Entertainment has not gone anywhere, though. It might look a little different, but it manages to find its way to audiences.

Live theater is coming back as well, as the student-run Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Co. (NSR) has stepped off of the thin ice of uncertainty and is performing the first in-person act on Notre Dame’s campus since the spring semester with “Julius Caesar.”

Lexi Kilcoin | The Observer

The cast of “Julius Caesar” rehearses before performances begin over the weekend.

Get ready for tension, manipulation, comic relief and action as Brutus and his conspirators take down the narcissistic dictator Julius Caesar. With a variety of intriguing characters like Marc Antony, Cassius and the eponymous despot, “Julius Caesar” has twists and turns sure to keep you on the edge of your seat and truly feel the “heat of the moment” as Brutus, played by junior Jenna Rame, states. NSR is breaking barriers left and right, from adapting to COVID restrictions to modernizing the play, creating a unique theatrical experience.

I spoke with Julius Caesar herself, sophomore Mariko Jurcsak, and dug deep into her experience with NSR and her performance. There is no doubt that Shakespeare intended for Julius Caesar to be performed by a male actor, placing Jurcsak in an unprecedented position.

“It’s honestly really empowering,” she said. “It [is] a great way to expand beyond the traditional image of the character. I like how the show breaks the mold like that.”

Not only is NSR breaking the mold of a traditionally male role, but other aspects of the production are changing as well; in particular, the expected swords of Ancient Rome have been swapped out for firearms. According to junior Grace Gasper, the show’s Ligarius, the use of guns is not only practical for staying 6 feet apart but it “makes [the] political murder more real.” 

Director Ballard Powell is proud of NSR’s hard-working team. According to the junior, going to a live performance will “feel like a luxury” because “it’s just better in person.” Of course, there will be restrictions, but the hard work of the NSR team has overcome these challenges.

“It’s a reminder of what we can do in these difficult times,” Gasper said. “Live theater is just so beautiful. [It’s amazing to see] creative ways that we can come up with solutions.”

The hard work and time NSR has put into producing an intricate performance and supporting fellow students during this time is incredibly important. 

So, I invite you, as Powell does, to “come to the show. I guarantee you it will be a pleasant surprise.

Open to the tri-campus community, performances are as follows:

Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m.

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About Lexi Kilcoin

Lexi is an aspiring journalist studying Creative Writing at Saint Mary's and is apart of the Journalism program at Notre Dame. She loves all things The Office and is sure to start a conversation with anyone she meets.

Contact Lexi