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Most thoughts and actions of consequences shouldn’t be offered in haste, or with malice or reduced to a blanket statement, so let us proceed cautiously and without malice, as I offer up some thoughts about why we will be proceeding with the Irondale presentation of Julius Caesar this Thursday evening.

What is Julius Caesar about and why are we going ahead with our video revival at a moment when many other artists all of whom we respect for their efforts and commitments are pausing.

That is the question.

When I made the decision of revive the 1599 Project I did so out of the conviction that it goes to the heart of the mission of IRONDALE: to present great plays with great actors in projects developed over lengthy preparation and rehearsal time that demand more than any other great play to be seen at this particular moment in time.

“The year 1599 proved to be a significant period in Shakespeare’s development and in English history. In 1599, Shakespeare completed the text of Henry V, wrote Julius Caesar and As you Like It and finished the first draft of Hamlet. England much like a contemporary America waited to see who would succeed an increasingly unpopular leader, attempted to crush a foreign rebellion which was rapidly turning into a quagmire, weathered a threat from an expanding super power, worked to maintain its status as a world economic leader, and suffered through the effects of plague that had but recently ended and would burst through again in a few short years.” This is the world that we saw around us as recently as two weeks ago.

But in these last two weeks our world has turned upside down once again. Is it still vital to offer you the Julius Caesar portion of 1599? Reasonable and sincere minds may certainly disagree as we discovered at a heartfelt company meeting that took place yesterday and disagree profoundly. But in the end, as artistic director, I made the decision to proceed. I did so from the belief that because Julius Caesar is a great play, its deep and nuanced meanings can change on a dime. It is a Rorschach of the day in which it is presented. What was a week ago seen as a study of the idealist losing his bearings and descending Into the chaos of power struggles and internecine rivalries is now the story of that same idealist being swept up in the currents of a raging flood. What are the lessons to be learned from the downfall of Brutus and the impact both intended and unintended of his action.

We will be presenting Julius Caesar with a short contextual conversation between myself and Michael David Gordon, the longtime IRONDALE actor who plays Brutus preceding the play and we will end the evening with an open ended discussion with the entire IRONDALE company in which we invite your questions and comments following the performance.

Please join us, if you are so inclined. Or as they said at my mother’s church, “Please stand if you are able and willing.”


Jim Niesen


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