By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Shakespearean dialog is no easy thing to parse, but Jeffrey Watson, who plays Mark Antony in Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar, said that shouldn’t keep anyone way from the show.
“What we’ve got is a company that is invested in making this play come to life for the audience. Our goal as a company is to tell the story, not just say the words, and it’s a pretty great story,” Watson said.
The play is KHT’s third Shakespeare in the Park production at the Keizer Rapids Park amphitheater. Its run begins Wednesday, July 23, and continues with 7 p.m. shows each night through Saturday, July 26. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted. Linda Baker directs from a William Shakespeare script adapted by the late Dan Hays.
Lyndon Zaitz plays the titular Caesar, his largest role since high school, and said the cast acts as translator for the, at times, difficult prose.
“Like mathematical equations and scientific theorems, you need somebody to translate, and hearing it spoken makes it a different thing. It’s not the play you tried to read in middle or high school. Being able to see it and matching actions to words brings it to life,” Zaitz said.
The play itself is the Bard’s retelling of the assassination of Julius Casear at the hands of senators conspiring against him. Zaitz’s role is not the most prominent. Those tasks falls to Gregory Jolivette’s Brutus, as the leader of the assassination plot, and Watson whose Antony must reassemble the republic’s pieces after Caesar’s assassination.
“The role of Mark Antony is the one where you’ll see the most growth, and it’s fun to portray that in a way that comes across to the audience. Moving from a soldier to the leader of a third of the free world is kind of fun to play with,” Watson said. “The chaos he creates in seeking revenge is him manipulating a mob to his will and then trying to quell the dissension he helped sow.”
For recent McNary High School alum Tanner Purkey, who plays Caesar’s adopted son Octavius, working in the shadows of Jolivette and Watson has been something of a master-class in acting.
“I thought (the production) would be a bunch of people who didn’t want to be here or weren’t that serious, but Jeffrey and Amanda Watson and Gregory are insane in their devotion and their talent,” Purkey said. “Brutus is my dream Shakespeare role and getting to see someone amazing play that role is super exciting and inspiring.”
In addition to talented actors, the production includes a wide range of music, sound effects and more than a little swordplay.
“Even though it’s a local, free production, the sets are going to be amazing, the costumes are great and the sword fights are excellent. Everyone who has picked up a sword has been dedicated to making it look good,” Zaitz said. “We’ll also have a lot of sound effects that will bring the action to life.”
Purkey said the thing that would surprise most attendees is learning just how quickly everything comes together. With a little more than a week before opening night, the troupe had yet to do its first full run-through.
“It pulls together quickly, and it’s only because of the love of the show and the dedication of the cast that it comes together as well as it does,” he said.