Those longing for the return of live, high-quality theater to Worcester won’t have to wait much longer, thanks to The Hanover Theatre Repertory (THT Rep). Through a partnership with the City of Worcester and with support from the Worcester Business Improvement District, they’re putting on William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on the steps of city hall and the Worcester Common this August.
The performances, which will be free and open to the public, are part of The Hanover Theatre’s way of giving back to the community and keeping theatergoers engaged while the organization’s main stage remains closed due to the pandemic. They won’t be able to reopen until mid-September, marking an 18-month absence.
Until then, President and CEO of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts Troy Siebels says this string of outdoor shows is one way for them to stay involved in the community and vice versa. “This is another thing we can do to keep audiences engaged during this time, and frankly, just to be doing something for the city at this time — we’re such collaborative players, we really value being a part of the city and contributing to the city. And this gives us a way to do that right now.”
Selecting the Shakespearean classic was no accident. Considered a tragedy by many Shakespeare scholars, Julius Caesar is truly a political drama about democracy crumbling — a topic Olivia Scanlon, managing director of Worcester BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center and artistic director at THT Rep, calls “timely.”
“It feels resonant in many ways with what we’re facing in our own democracy — that there’s a bit of an unraveling happening at all levels of society, from the very top all the way down to the people, or ‘the commoners’ as Shakespeare called them,” Ms. Scanlon said. “It also works really perfectly with this outdoor setting that we happen to have available to us right down the street from The Hanover Theatre and right across the way from the BrickBox.”
Between the timeliness of the subject matter, the need to be outdoors to practice social distancing, and the fitting matchup between this particular play and the architecture of city hall and the common as a venue, everything came together favorably for what can only be described as the perfect storm to make this production a reality.
Those with hesitations about the content can rest assured this won’t be a show just for those well-versed in Shakespeare. “Even though it’s set in Ancient Rome, there’s this really recognizable struggle for power that’s been told and retold in countless other political dramas,” Ms. Scanlon said, depicting it as “suspenseful,” “active,” and “engaging.” She also says it’s one of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays, and that THT Rep has updated archaic language and significantly cut down the play’s runtime in an effort to make the show as accessible and understandable to a wider audience as possible.
All tickets are free thanks to the generous sponsorships of several local companies and organizations, many of which are Worcester Chamber members including Assumption University, Bay State Savings Bank, WinnDevelopment, Bartholomew & Company, Bowditch & Dewey, Country Bank, and Fallon Health. Seating is on a first-come-first-serve basis with the ability to reserve online beforehand, though anyone is welcome to snag a bench or bring lawn chairs to watch.
THT Rep is waiting to see what city and state guidance allows for as August nears, but they expect their capacity for each show to be between 220 to 300 people. “We’re hearing that people are ready to come back, that they’re hungry for something to come together […] So I think there’s going to be a real demand for this.” Mr. Siebels said. “I think people are going to patronize the restaurants and they’re going to spend some time and some money downtown.”
Previews of the show will take place on August 4, 5, and 6, with opening night slated for Saturday, August 7. THT Rep is scheduled for a minimum of 12 performances, though according to Ms. Scanlon, they anticipate extending to 16 performances total. The play will be approximately 90-minutes with intermission and is labeled as appropriate for all ages, but some violence may be included.
There are still opportunities to donate to this initiative as an individual or a sponsor, as well as advertising opportunities in the program. Those interested in contributing should contact The Hanover Theatre directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 877-571-7469.