Vice President of Communications for The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory Lisa Condit spoke with THT Rep’s artistic director, Olivia Scanlon, about William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar coming to the Worcester Common this August. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Everybody’s excited thinking about live theatre and Julius Caesar on the common, trying to get a feel for what that looks like. And of course, making sure that it’s safe for everyone. It is all part of our reopening. Do you want to just touch a little bit on how you’ve been working with other groups to really pull this together as a great community event?
Livy: Our team at the Hanover Theatre is working diligently on getting the show ready to go. I’ve been doing a lot of work auditioning actors, we had hours upon hours of auditions to narrow it down to a cast of 20. Partnering with the city and figuring out all the coordination of managing, many, many people on the common for many nights over the course of the summer. We are also working with the BID, the Business Improvement District, who is excited and supportive of the project. They are going be helping us get the word out and really animate all of downtown around this event. There are a lot of contributors and it is just incredibly exciting, hopeful and joyful to be working on as we come out of the pandemic.
The Power of Generosity
Lisa: Absolutely. You have a special relationship with a couple name Veronica and Howard Wiseman. Would you mind telling us a little bit about this couple and how you know them?
Livy: Veronica and Howard have been very close friends and patrons of mine for several years now. Before coming to Worcester, I lived in Cambridge in Boston, and I ran a small theatre company that I had started called Bridge Repertory Theatre. Veronica and Howard made significant gifts to two of the later projects I did with that company. Veronica and Howard have always jumped on board when I have a big crazy idea, and Julius Caesar has proved to be no different. They have really graciously and generously offered to match up to $30,000 in donations made specifically to support Julius Caesar.
Lisa: Why don’t you talk to us a little bit about where this money is going? Why is it expensive? Why do we need to raise money for a free performance of Julius Caesar on the common?
Livy: Part of it is because we are offering it free and open to the public, but that does not mean it doesn’t cost anything. For us to be able to provide it at no cost to the audience, we must pre-raise all the money to make sure that we can cover it. It is an exceptionally large team. There are 20 actors, two directors, two stage managers, one production assistant and five designers. There is a wardrobe supervisor, an LX technician and an AV technician. It is a noticeably big team because that is what it takes to put together a large production. Our total budget for the show is a very lean $200,000. We have 20 actors who we are hiring full time for two months of rehearsal and performances, and you can imagine how fast that adds up. That’s just the cast, not the entire team, nor does it cover the cost of materials and lighting rentals. There is so much that goes into making this project happen. Live theater is more complicated and expensive than anyone could ever imagine, so any amount that folks can give is a huge help and will also allow us to then share the event free and open to the public.
The Costume Design Vision
Lisa: I know you are not ready to officially announce anything, but this is behind-the-scenes at The Hanover Theatre. So, if there any spoilers that you want to share, you can slip a couple. The costumes, for example, because some people might be thinking togas. What’s to a toga costume?
Livy: We are pursuing a classic period costume look, far from it being sort of frat house togas or bed sheets, we are doing really detailed, beautiful costumes. The higher-class characters will have gorgeous costumes and then all the way down to the commoners will have more ancient Roman streetwear. There’s definitely going to be a fun mashup of classic and contemporary. Even with some of the beautiful, detailed period costumes, we’re still going to get rowdy. It is still a big epic play. It is my goal for everyone to feel like they understand what is going on at every moment of the play, even if they don’t catch every word that they still have a real sense of how the plot is moving forward.