Julius Caesar is a strong, independent woman in the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA)’s production of Shakespeare’s political masterpiece, on 17-23 June at Papa Hou theatre at the YMCA.
Gender neutral casting by NASDA director Soseh Yekanians meant all the students could audition for all the roles. Third year student Danielle Rackham won the lead title role and was encouraged to play the ambitious Roman general in her own way.
“The cool thing is I don’t have to play a male; I get to reinvent the role as a strong, independent woman,” she says.
“I thought ‘why not just go for the lead’? There are many things about Julius Caesar that I wanted to explore; he starts off as a powerful person who has led people through battles, someone who people look up to, and he just loses it all. He becomes so paranoid. He gets sucked into his fame really.”
The life and tragic demise of Caesar resonates with the young cast in the uncertainty of the post-Trump world.
“The play is so relevant, you look at the themes and the ideas. It might be dramatised, but it is just like our lives now. ”
Voice expert Julia Moody from Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) worked intensively with the students during rehearsals of Julius Caesar. Acclaimed Shakespeare Original Pronunciation expert Ben Crystal popped in for some impromptu coaching while in Christchurch delivering an evening of talks and demonstrations.
It is part of the rich experience of the NASDA; a comprehensive training that is benefitting from Soseh’s directing and teaching expertise, as well as her choice of challenging plays – Carol Churchill last year, Mark Ravenhill this year and now the Bard himself.
That suits Danielle just fine. She discovered NASDA in Year 12 and attended a “NASDA for a Day” programme. “You spend the day in the classes at NASDA and I thought, ‘that is the place for me’. I’ve done drama all my life and couldn’t really see myself doing anything else.”
Julius Caesar by NASDA, 17 - 23 June, Papa Hou theatre at the YMCA. Tickets are $17/$27, see http://www.ara.ac.nz