'Julius Caesar' closes Kingsmen season

Play set in modern Italy with gender-swapped roles

Trisha Miller is Cassius and Todd Lanker is Brutus in the production of the political tragedy set in modern Rome.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – June 30, 2017) The Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival will close its 21st season with a modern-day “Julius Caesar” featuring a female Cassius among other gender-swapped and untraditionally cast roles.

The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company will present the political tragedy at 8 p.m. July 21 through 23, July 28 through 30, and Aug. 4 through 6 in Kingsmen Park on the Thousand Oaks campus of California Lutheran University. 

This year’s production is set in a contentious political world of modern Rome where, just as in ancient times, citizens are divided over whether a strong leader is necessary to bring order or whether the country should remain a free democratic republic. Shakespeare, a royalist when there were a number of plots against Queen Elizabeth’s monarchy, wrote “Julius Caesar” to show how the violent removal of a powerful leader can only lead to chaos, according to director John Slade of Ojai.

Slade is directing his fourth KSF production. Slade has also acted in many of the festival’s plays, including the title role in “King Lear,” when he wasn’t touring the country performing his one-man concert play, “Walt Whitman, Live.”

Gary Best, a Ventura-based actor and co-founder of the Ventura Improv Company, plays Caesar. Brett Elliott, the company’s associate artistic director, returns to the Kingsmen stage to play Marc Antony after having directed last year’s popular “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Actors in gender-swapped roles include Trisha Miller as Cassius, Tessa Slovis as Messala and Kaitlin Ruby as Soothsayer. In addition to Miller, actors returning after first appearing on the Kingsmen stage in the season opener, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” are Todd Lanker as Brutus, Louis Jerry Kernion as Cobbler and Tom Ashworth as Ligarius. 

KSF veteran Kenny Toll, who appeared as Dumaine in the season opener, plays Octavius Caesar. Samantha Eggers is Calpurnia and Angela Gulner is Portia. Both women appeared in last season’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Longtime company actors Michael Faulkner and Jason D. Rennie portray Decius and Cinna.

The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company is the professional theater company of Cal Lutheran.

The festival grounds open at 5:30 p.m. for picnicking and entertainment. General admission is $20 for adults and free for those under 18. Individual tickets are available at the door only. For lawn box reservations or more information, visit kingsmenshakespeare.org or call 805-493-3452.

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