With its political speechifying, strategizing and rabble-rousing, “Julius Caesar” is often cited as the Shakespeare play most relevant to modern-day Washington, D.C. This makes it a natural choice for this year’s annual Shakespeare Theatre Free For All.
Of course, the story of the assassination of Rome’s leader by his deputies and the subsequent battles between factions is a bit more violent than D.C.’s political backbiting. But even as this production, first mounted in 2008, sticks staunchly to the togas and columns of ancient Rome, the parallels are still apparent.
“It makes me think about the actual historical events more than you might if it were being done in business suits,” says Tom Hammond, who plays tragic hero Brutus. “There was a day when these guys made this decision and actually had to carry it out, and the fact that we’re performing in togas makes you think about that more.”
Tickets for the free show are available online or at the theater’s box office, where a few hundred tickets will be released each night.
Until 2009, Free For All was held outdoors, in the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Rock Creek Park. To make heat-averse patrons more comfortable, organizers moved the event to the air-conditioned Sidney Harman Hall two years ago.
Still, Hammond — who performed in the 2006 Free For All production of “Pericles” — misses the old, airy venue.
“There’s really something magical about being outside,” he says. “I loved that.”
Easy for him to say. He gets to wear a toga.
“Julius Caesar” is a great way to introduce young children to Shakespeare because it’s pretty short and relatively free of obvious sexual puns. That’s assuming you don’t mind your children witnessing murder, suicide and political manipulation, of course.
» Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW; through Sept. 4, free; 202-547-1122, Shakespearetheatre.org. (Gallery Place)
Photo by Carol Rosegg