NOTE: PortFringe will be profiling PF14 Artists and their shows on this blog in the weeks leading up to the festival (June 24-29, 2014). The next snapshot is of Afraid Greatness Shakespeare, presenting their original world premiere adaptation of Julius Caesar at PortFringe 2014. We recently had a conversation with Leo Hilton – first time PF artist and the playwright and leader of this Shakespeare-savvy ensemble.
Artist: Afraid of Greatness Shakespeare
Show: I Come to Bury Caesar
Description: A modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.” Adapted, directed and performed by teens from the Greater Portland area.
PF: So, Leo, it’s an honor to have you here as the youngest PortFringe Artist in this year’s festival. I’m sure some audience members will think it quite ambitious for teens (or anyone) to adapt, direct and perform a Shakespearean work. But locals will know that these are no ordinary teens! Can you tell us briefly about how you and your friends came to be such fans, scholars, and performers of these classical plays?
Leo: Well, as Portland High students, most of my cast and crew (including myself) have been heavily involved in the PHS Shakespeare club for the past number of years, under the direction of the fantastic Sally Wood and Peter Brown, and this program has really motivated a whole bunch of students who in normal circumstances would be acting primarily in non-Shakespearean production to grow to love and understand the Shakespeare’s work. For myself, I’ve loved Shakespeare (and Caesar in particular) ever since I memorized the “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” speech for an audition when I was something like 10 years old. Of course it doesn’t hurt that my mother, Bess Welden is also a fan (although some may consider this an understatement) of the Bard.
PF: Tell us something we might not know about your Portfringe show
Leo: I’ve wanted to put on a production of Caesar for at least half a decade. I’ll bet my fellow company members are happy enough to work with me just so I’ll shut up about how much I want to do Caesar. Originally, I would’ve liked to play Antony, but Gabe Walker’s performance as Antony probably tops anything I could ever do, and now Antony isn’t even my favorite character anymore: I’m more of a Cassius fan as of today.
PF: Shakespeare’s Caesar. If you could talk with him right now, I’m guessing ol’ Julius would wish things had gone just a little differently. What one question would you ask him?
Leo: I’d ask his poor, old, brutalized corpse why he didn’t just pay a little more attention to his thoroughly concerned and devoted wife. I mean, I understand ignoring strangers on the street, and even your precious Roman augurers, but c’mon, your wife too?
PF: Quick – don’t think about it – it’s celebrity deathmatch time – which two Shakespearean characters would you most like to see battle it out?
Leo: Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Oliver de Boys
PF: Indulge us as we get a bit philosophical:
What does the term “Fringe Theater” mean to you?
Leo: To me, Fringe Theater means not only gritty, edgy, and strange theatrical works, but theater that is accessible from both sides, easy to see and easy to produce.
PF: And as we get even more existential: Why is theater important?
Leo: Theater is important because it allows us to experience a story in a unique way in which we can connect to the characters not only through common ideas, actions, or physical appearance, but also through the common space that the actors and audience share.
PF: What are you most looking forward to about PortFringe?
Leo: I’m excited to put on the first work of theater that I can really call my own, as well as being able to see plenty of the other super dope productions that are going on all over the festival.
PF: Lobster or Steak? Discuss.
Leo: For myself, I’ll have to go for both. Surf and turf, just like the crown that Caesar was supposed to wear "…by sea and land, In every place, save here in Italy.“ As for my cast? Screw the steak, they’ll take the entire cow, stab it 32 times, and bathe in it’s blood. That, or they’ll have a Caesar Salad.
PF: Do you guys have any other projects lined up (or dream projects) for Afraid of Greatness?
Leo: As of yet, Afraid of Greatness has no definite plans for the future. However, I’ve got a whole bunch of Shakespeare that I’d love to do. Othello, Henry V, Hamlet, and Richard III are all on the list for possible future projects. I feel like people do the Comedies all too frequently, and I’m glad to have a cast of actors willing to embrace the dark side of the Bard.
PF: How would you define "Greatness”? And, should we all be afraid of it?
Leo: Greatness? In this context, the power to effect change in a given subject. Greatness is something that all ambitious men want, and all wise men realize the danger of. As Brutus so elegantly puts it, "The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins Remorse from power.“
Fear it only if you fear things thrust upon you.
SEE AFRAID OF GREATNESS SHAKESPEARE’S “I COME TO BURY CAESAR” AT PORTFRINGE 2014!
Tuesday, June 24 at 6:30pm – PSC Studio Theater
Friday, June 27 at 8:30pm – PSC Studio Theater
Saturday, June 28 at 10:30am – PSC Studio Theater
for more information about PortFringe, visit www.portfringe.com