Julius Caesar

Soseh Yekanians (Director), William Shakespeare

Research output: Non-textual outputs, including Creative WorksCreative Works - Live Performance


Research Background
Performing Shakespeare is a difficult task even for a seasoned actor. However, what happens when a group of 3rd year music theatre students are required to perform in a professional production of “Julius Caesar”, without any experience in classical text? By utilising the acting pedagogy of Shakespeare expert Ben Crystal, I set out to adapt a framework where I could teach, direct and rehearse “Julius Caesar” for first time performers.

Research Contribution
For the first time in my career, I was tasked with directing a group of music theatre students towards performing one of Shakespeare's most difficult political plays "Julius Caesar". What made this task even more challenging was that these students had never performed Shakespeare before and were in fact, terrified of it. Therefore, my inexperience in directing first time actors in Shakespeare aligned with their naivety, made this task even more daunting. My research question therefore became, "As a director, how can I move past the significance of text in Shakespeare and direct a successful production?"
Ben Crystal is a London based actor, author, producer, and explorer of original practices in Shakespeare rehearsal and production. Alongside his father Professor David Crystal, he is also the co-writer of Shakespeare's Words (Penguin 2002) and The Shakespeare Miscellany (Penguin 2005). I came across Crystal's work a few years ago and appreciated his outlook which was that, by rehearsing Shakespeare as close to how he might have worked as director in the 17th Century, both directors and actors can remove the fears that often come with Shakespearean philosophies and language. One of the big drivers of this is remembering that Shakespeare himself often wrote for the inexperienced and/or illiterate actors. Therefore, he did not necessarily tackle “scripts” in the same intellectual process as we do as contemporary theatre makers. Crystal considers by understanding context into Shakespeare's perceptions of historical time, politics and why he wrote, actors can begin to unlock language through a more embodied practice that does not necessarily rely on text.

Research Significance
By utilising Crystal’s theories of rehearsing Shakespeare as close to his original system as possible, which included physicalisation of the words through detachment of language and ideas, I was able to direct first time music theatre actors towards a successful season of “Julius Caesar” at the Papa Hou Theatre in Christchurch. The impact of this research did not necessarily lie within the outcome but the rehearsal process. The fact that, these students overcame their fears of text and language in specific reference to Shakespeare meant that they had not only gained an added proficiency as performers but also in turn, gained confidence within their own abilities. Since this experience in 2017, the school now has Shakespeare as a core subject and uses my rehearsal methods from Julius Caesar as a teaching tool to help music theatre students find physical freedom within non-lyrical text. Coincidentally, when we began rehearsals for this play, Ben Crystal happened to be in Christchurch and I was able to invite him to come into rehearsals and conduct workshops with the 3rd year students that set the foundations for the latter rehearsals and overall success and significance surrounding the integrity of the play.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationChristchurch, New Zealand
PublisherNational Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventJulius Caesar - Papa Hou, YMCA, Christchurch, New Zealand
Duration: 17 Jun 201723 Jun 2017


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