Sam Maynard, Education director of Donmar Warehouse in London, began his workshop on the classic William Shakespeare play Julius Caesar with, “By the end of this workshop and after you view the play you will agree that a play written over 400 years ago about a person who lived over 2,000 years ago is still relevant to us today.” This was an ambitious statement, but one that over the course of the last few days was one that was well proven here at the Williamsburg HS for Architecture and Design (WHSAD). WHSAD students took part in this workshop to prepare them for a performance of Julius Caesar they would be seeing. During the workshop Sam was joined by Dame Harriet Walter, DBE (Brutus), this production, which plays until November 9 at St. Anne’s Warehouse in Downtown Brooklyn. WHSAD students were given this great opportunity to learn about the play and the important themes from the play. The most fascinating part of the workshop was the privilege to be in the presence of Harriet Walter, on one of the greatest Shakespearean actresses of her time. The workshop encouraged students to analyze and recreate the rich text provided by Shakespeare’s play.
This production is reinterpreted with a cast of 14 women and presents the viewer with a play within a play. The students were intrigued by the play being staged within a women’s prison, by the inmates. Throughout the play the audience is monitored by guards and also made to feel uncomfortable. Throughout the performance students were engaged in the retelling of the classic play. Following the performance students were engaged in a discussion on the themes of the play. One theme that the students kept on discussing was the theme of control. Control in the lens that when one is out of power another force takes power. Shakespeare’s themes still are relevant to the daily lives of people today in 2013. Themes of power and the struggle for control are two themes that are present in government and governing today. WHSAD students are grateful to Sam Maynard and Harriet Walter for spending an afternoon with them preparing them for this great opportunity. The play and workshop will be experience that the students will never forget and exposure that will have a profound impact on them.