Monday, April 23, 2018

SRT's Shakespeare in the Park : Julius Caesar - Diva's Interview with Actor, Julie Wee

In Shakespeare's historical and political thriller "Julius Caesar", one could argue that the senator Caius Cassius is more of a baddie than the titular character. After all, the politician was the main instigator of the plot to kill Caesar.

Starting 2 May 2018 at Fort Canning Park, Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) will be presenting Shakespeare in the Park -"Julius Caesar", set in modern times. Two key characters in the play has been cast as females. Well-known actress Jo Kukathas takes up the lead role of Caesar, while Julie Wee - a familiar face for local viewers, having been on Mediacorp 5 TV series like "Moulmein High" and "Light Years" - will be playing the manipulative and politically savvy Cassius.

Julie is no stranger to SRT's Shakespeare in the Park productions either. She has acted as Portia in "The Merchant of Venice", Miranda in "The Tempest", Hero in "Much Ado About Nothing" and Bianca in "Othello". "Julius Caesar" will be her 5th Shakespeare in the Park role!

To get some dibs about Julie's role in "Julius Caesar", Red Dot Diva got in touch with her for a mini interview.

Red Dot Diva: Hi, Julie! It’s just a couple of weeks away from the first day of SRT’s Shakespeare in the Park: Julius Caesar. How excited are you to be finally on stage with a live audience? 
Julie Wee: Very excited! The audience is the missing character in rehearsals, so it's always such a relief to finally have them with us to share the story.

RDD: I can’t wait to watch you on stage as a female Cassius. How did you prep yourself for this role? 
Julie: Other than studying the play of course, I read a fascinating book about the life of Julius Caesar to understand the context, the lifestyle of the time, the way the senate worked, and who backed who politically, and mostly to build up my arsenal as to why I hate Caesar so. Having that great desire to assassinate her and understanding why she must die, were the hardest things for me to come to terms with, the pacifist that I am.

RDD: Did you use aspects of your interpretation of the character after any particular female politician(s)? 
Julie: I didn’t study female politicians in particular. I studied Caesar himself and the way Rome worked back then as a basis for my research, and have drawn from the way modern politicians conduct themselves in public.

RDD: How do you think the dynamics of Shakespeare’s original play have changed due to having two of the main characters being played by women? 
Julie: I think it adds wonderful layers to the piece. It reflects the state of the world now, and my hope for the world to have more gender balanced leadership. It allows the relationship between Brutus and Cassius take on a different dimension. And not surprisingly, many aspects are not changed at all, by having females play the roles, because the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and the quest for power are human actions unaffected by gender.

RDD: In history, books, and also in war, the stories of women have been sidelined or worse still, silenced. Why do you think about 50% of the world’s population, us women, have allowed this to go on for so long? What role can we all play in shifting the gender imbalance? 
Julie: These are tough questions, so I won’t pretend to know the answers to them. But if I were to make an attempt, I would say: I think the barriers to climb to overcome the status quo were so high, that it took real disruption to overcome. This year marks (only) 100 years since the first general election in which women voted in the UK. That was only achieved through struggle, perseverance and the tremendous courage of the suffragettes. I sometimes work as a business role player for training programs in companies, and one of the programs is ‘diversity and inclusion’. I’ve learnt from those sessions that powerful starting points for change can be talking about our conscious and unconscious biases openly in a safe environment and also realizing that you, male or female, can be an ally to others when you observe a lack of fairness, to speak up for the person who may not have a voice.

RDD: Doing the work of an artist, in itself, can sometimes be seen to be political. Given the political climate that we are in, what do you think is an artist’s role in performing controversial characters or plays? 
Julie: I’m a dictionary geek, so I looked up the word ‘controversial’. It means: giving rise or likely to give rise to public disagreement. I think our role in theatre is to be the conduits for voices, ideas and stories. We put it out there, let the audience mull it over and they can decide where in themselves they want to shelve those ideas. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with presenting conflicting opinions - it’s what people do with their disagreement that is the real question. Since you have to buy a ticket and physically show up to watch theatre, sometimes, I think we are often preaching to the choir, as theatre goers have chosen to be there. I do think artists have some responsibility in helping people process what they present. This is why shows nowadays often have post-show dialogues.

RDD: What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage? Do you have any pre-show rituals? 
Julie: It’s not the very last thing I do, but I always brush my teeth before a show. Cleans and freshens the mouth as well as the mind!


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For an unforgettable theatre night out, get your tickets to SRT's Shakespeare in the Park : Julius Caesar now!

This year's Shakespeare in the Park was made possible with crowdfunding, and you will be supporting local theatre as well, by getting tickets to watch the production, and enjoying a picnic under the stars together with friends or family!


Dates: From 2nd to 27th May 2018
Prices: From $45 (group concessions and F&B packages available)
Venue: Fort Canning Park
Ticketing: SISTIC at 6348 5555 or http://www.srt.com.sg/show/juliuscaesar


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