Olympia’s Animal Fire Theatre Produces ‘Julius Caesar’

shakespeare in the park


By Morgan Willie

skookum sponsorIf you’re on the search for something to occupy your time this weekend, boy have I got a fantastic opportunity for you! Olympia’s very own Animal Fire Theatre Company is putting on their last four performances for Julius Caesar on the Capitol Campus this Thursday, August 1 through Sunday, August 4.  This is a show you’ll want to catch.

shakespeare in the parkIn fact, finding a live performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is somewhat challenging these days. Director Jenny Greenlee told me that the last performance of this play in Olympia was done over 15 years ago! Jenny has been totally stoked to work with the script and make it her own production. “I find it to be one of Shakespeare’s more accessible shows,” she remarked. “The dialogue and plot are actually pretty straightforward and for those people who want an introduction to Shakespeare, it’s a great show to see.”

Let me just pause here to tell you one of the perks of going to an Animal Fire show: it’s free!  So, even if you don’t think this event would be something up your alley, you won’t be losing any money when you decide to visit. However, if you need another incentive, I can tell you from experience that the acting is marvelous and the execution is wonderful. It’s obvious that the company has put blood, sweat, and tears into these performances.

All right, so, while the sweat and tears might be accurate, the blood is most definitely figurative. If Caesar’s death is brutal enough to make you cringe, just remember that the actors are just doing their job, and doing it well. They want to guide you to the edge of uncertainty. That was a plastic dagger, right? For the sake of actor Scott Douglas (Caesar) I sure hope so.

This particular performance of Julius Caesar is rated PG-13 by the Animal Fire Theatre Company. You might want to be aware that there are some violent deaths at hand. It wouldn’t be a Shakespeare tragedy without them! Before you bring your children to the performance, consider this statement from Jenny Greenlee: “It’s up to people in terms of the conversations they want to have with their kids. When I went to Hamlet last year, which also had fight scenes in it, we definitely saw a wide range of families. It’s more about parents having a judgment about whether or not their kids can handle it.”

shakespeare in the park
Animal Fire Theatre Company’s performance of Julius Caesar continues through August 4.

The play also contains some very vibrant and thought-provoking essences. It was part of Jenny’s artistic vision to play with the gender roles and shake up the scenes. “If you read the show, it’s not just about politics. It’s about exploring where their personal vengeance is,” Jenny commented. “So, we’re playing a lot with the dynamics by having a male Portia and a female Brutus. It really brings some different interpretations to the text. We didn’t change the text at all, but it’s definitely a different interpretation of that.”

Animal Fire was started several years ago by a group of students from the University of Idaho. Their first play was Macbeth and actor/producer Kate Arvin assured me that the company has grown a lot since then. “The theatre itself was great, but the publicity was horrible, you know, they didn’t have as many people come as they could have just because they didn’t even put posters up,” Kate mentioned. “So, I jumped on board right away and helped them with a number of things. I ended up auditioning too.”

One thing that sets Animal Fire apart from other theatre groups is that all of their performances are located outside, rain or shine. “We have had performances rained out before, but if our audience is willing to sit in the rain, we’re willing to perform in it,” Kate stated. “That’s the rule.”

shakespeare in the park
Kate Arvin, playing Mark Antony, struggles with Trebonius, played by Morgan Picton.

You may want to bring an umbrella to the show in case the weather looks a bit sour because they honestly will perform through the drizzle. You don’t want to miss out on the action because of soggy skies!

While you’re at it, lawn chairs or seat cushions are a must. The play runs about two and a half hours long. Your bottom will thank you.

Also, Director Jenny pleasantly told me, “We’re happy to have people come out early and make a picnic, you know, whatever they want to do to have a real community feel to it. I think that’s why a lot of people do bring their kids to our outdoor performances because you can get up and walk around.” So, make a date of it! Invite friends and family, too!

As mentioned, the play will be located on the Capitol Campus this weekend. Each performance begins promptly at 6:30 pm. The stage is actually situated on an abandoned water feature near the Korean War memorial.

For a video instruction on how to get there, or for more information about the Animal Fire, check out their website.  Donations are gladly accepted, but not necessary.

Break a leg, Animal Fire!

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