Mobile, modern, immersive version of play Julius Caesar comes to downtown Fredericton

·4 min read
Bard in the Barracks turned William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar into a downtown walking tour complete with virtual elements and modernization.  (Matt Carter - image credit)
Bard in the Barracks turned William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar into a downtown walking tour complete with virtual elements and modernization. (Matt Carter - image credit)

"Friends, Romans, countrymen" — words heard in theatres all around the world but less commonly outside in the downtown core of Fredericton.

Bard in the Barracks, a Fredericton theatre company led by artistic director Len Falkenstein, turned William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar into a walking tour complete with virtual elements and modernization that touches on the current political climate.

The production takes place at different locations downtown like the New Brunswick Legislature, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Green.

"We're right in the heart of downtown," Falkenstein said. "There's a lot of pedestrian traffic, people going by on scooters, people going by on Jet Skis when we're by the river. None of that we can predict and that's just kind of the fun of the show."

Falkenstein has done mobile productions in the past, but this is his first time doing one downtown.

He said during rehearsals and their preview performance on June 15, there were lots of perplexed looks from passersby.

Modern-day Shakespeare

Julius Caesar takes place in 44 BC when Caesar returns from a triumphant war. He is successful and popular in the Roman republic. Cassius plots a conspiracy against Caesar and gets Caesar's friend, Brutus, on board. Brutus delivers the killing blow to Caesar and says during the funeral that he loved Caesar, but loved Rome more.

The mastermind behind the conspiracy, Cassius, is played by Jason McIntyre. Despite acting for years, this is McIntyre's first Shakespeare play and first Bard in the Barracks production.

Matt Carter
Matt Carter

"I was free this summer, I saw this call for the show downtown and the stars kind of aligned," said the 22-year-old actor.

He said he likes doing a modernized version of Julius Caesar because it makes Shakespeare more accessible.

McIntyre said the play mirrors local political events, like the freedom convoy, as well as North American politics like Donald Trump.

"We're doing a … Julius Caesar that couldn't have existed up until this very moment in time, which is super exciting," he said.

McIntyre said doing the preview show for an audience on Wednesday night was surreal. He said by the time the end of the play comes around, the moon is shining down on the actors.

As a theatre artist during the COVID-19 pandemic, MacIntyre said doing this performance for an audience felt amazing.

"It really reminds you why you like doing what you do."

Lucas Gutiérrez-Robert, 24, plays Marc Antony in the production. They performed with Bard in the Barracks since they were 17.

Matt Carter
Matt Carter

Gutiérrez-Robert said togas and Roman armour were traded for corporate suit-and-tie, Conservative party-style attire instead.

For safety, they said Falkenstein and crew members usher the crowd around while the actors perform. They said some crew members have stop signs to prevent anyone from getting hurt or hit by a car.

Gutiérrez-Robert said Antony is one of the most terrifying parts they've ever played, since they generally have played comedic roles.

"[Antony] is ruthless and calculating and incredibly erudite," they said. "It's almost a very self-indulgent part because you get to kind of exercise a lot of demons while quite frankly yelling and screaming at the public."

Texting and Tibr

While many plays encourage audience members to put away their phones, this version of Julius Caesar is different.

Falkenstein said there's a virtual element to the show using a website called Tibr. Audiences log on at the beginning of the show and between scenes, the website gets updated with social messaging feeds.

He said the name Tibr is a play on the words Tinder and River Tiber, a river in Rome.

From text conversations to Twitter streams, audiences get to immerse themselves in the characters' social media conversations about the conspiracy against Caesar.

Submitted by Alex McAllister
Submitted by Alex McAllister

"We've connected it to the online campaigns of information and disinformation that are so current today," said Falkenstein.

He created the memes and content for the website, but other members of the company took over the tech and coding involved to make the idea come to life.

Falkenstein said there are lots of layers to the production and he enjoyed watching the reactions of the audience as well as people who just stumbled across the play downtown.

"The show is really quite amazing," said Falkenstein. "It's unlike anything an audience will ever see in Fredericton."

Julius Caesar will run from June 15 to July 3 on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Bard in the Barracks is also putting on an outdoor production of As You Like It at Odell Park on the alternating days from the Julius Caesar performances.

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