THE CAST of this year’s Theater in the Rough production of ‘Julius Caesar’ strike a Shakespearean pose. (photo credit: YITZ WOOLF)
THE CAST of this year’s Theater in the Rough production of ‘Julius Caesar’ strike a Shakespearean pose.
(photo credit: YITZ WOOLF)

Free Shakespeare theater returns to Jerusalem with 'Julius Caesar'


Shakespeare fans, rejoice.

Theater in the Rough is back again for its annual summer Shakespeare show with its production of Julius Caesar

The show can be seen in nine performances, between August 8 and 24, in Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Garden, located behind the King David Hotel

Unique to the show this year, there is a musical element to the play – the Chorus character – which Natan Skop, co-founder of Theater in the Rough, created and put together. 

“We took text from the play and combined it into this new character that we call the Chorus and put it to music,” Skop said. “There is nothing new added in terms of the words, but in the original you might have heard other characters say the text instead of singing it.”

JULIUS CAESAR was declared immune – or ‘sacrosanct’ – shortly before his colleagues decided to end his rule. (credit: PICRYL)
JULIUS CAESAR was declared immune – or ‘sacrosanct’ – shortly before his colleagues decided to end his rule. (credit: PICRYL)

The Chorus is made up of eight actors who sing the lines together and play instruments throughout the show, according to Skop. In total, there are 15 actors in the production this year. 

“It’s a different theatrical convention to have this group of people who are both a part of the action but also a little bit outside of it,” Skop said. “I am interested by the Chorus, and I think the audience will be interested too.” 

The content of the play Julius Caesar itself is shortened in length so that the play can be performed in a time span of just under two hours, without an intermission, Skop said. 

Another element that makes this Julius Caesar production unique is that the setting of the play is not on a traditional stage. Instead, it turns the park within Bloomfield Garden into its own stage. 

“We do have some scene moves,” Skop explained. “ It’s called a promenade style play, where all the actors and the audience move to different locations throughout the play.”

The atmosphere of the park is used to the advantage of the actors in that they can maneuver through it and use the natural landscape to present their play, according to Beth Steinberg, the theatrical director of the play and the other co-founder of Theater in the Rough, alongside her son Skop. 

“The park is our stage, and it’s really fun because every year I look at these spaces and I say to myself, ‘How can I make them look different?’” Steinberg said. “My job is to make the audience say, ‘Oh wow, that was such a nice use of the space.’” 

By making the location of the play the public park, Theater in the Rough can effectively increase the accessibility of the event, Steinberg said. The play is free of charge to the public, with a suggested donation. 

“I really believe in access; and affordability is also a very important part of that,” Steinberg said. “How do we build a theater-going audience if we don’t offer them ways to actually access theater?” Steinberg asked. 

A Shakespearean tale relevant for today

The content of the play can be considered very topical and relevant, she added. 

“I think it’s great to come in and to engage with the story,” Steinberg said. “You can use it either as a lens through which to think about or not think about what’s going on in the world.” 

A lot of work goes into the process of making the show, including the time commitment from the actors to rehearse and prepare their lines. According to Steinberg, the rehearsal process starts in June and slowly increases from two rehearsals a week to up to four by July. 

“At this point, it’s become like training the actors for a marathon; you want them to peak at just the right moments in every performance,” Steinberg said.

The actors come from various stages in their lives and from different theatrical backgrounds, according to Steinberg. 

One of the actors returning this year is Yehoshua Looks, 70, who is playing the role of Marc Antony. Looks rekindled his love for Shakespeare last year when he acted for the first time in decades, not having done so since he was involved in theater in college about 50 years ago.

“I feel very comfortable with Beth and trust her completely as a director,” Looks said. “The beauty of this performance is that it’s a two-and-a-half-month process where we really get to explore the characters, and I feel free to truly explore the role,” 

SARIT BROWN, an actress who is a part of the Chorus, is performing for the first time with the Theater in the Rough group this year but has been acting for the past 15 years. 

“While performing Shakespeare as a musical piece in the park, I get a totally different feeling than what I’m used to as an actress,” Brown said. “When you perform here, you are interacting with the world and the nature around you.” 

In addition to the time spent on preparing the actors, there is also a lot of time spent on the costume designs. 

Gabrielle Vigdony worked in collaboration with Bayla Lewis to create costumes that reflect the Roman Empire – the time period in which the play is set.

“I might do some hand-sewing and machine-sewing as we adapt things and take them apart,” Vigdony said. “There’s often echoes of what once was, but each year we reimagine the fabrics into something new.”

Overall, the performance brings together costumes, music, and acting to transport viewers to the world of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, said another actress in the Chorus, Miriam Asofsky. 

“I am not lying when I say that Theater in the Rough kept me sane this summer. I feel like I’ve made friends and gained so much support from the other members of the Chorus” she said. 

There is something in the Theater in the Rough’s version of the play for everyone to enjoy, Asofsky said. 

“Surprisingly, for a tragedy, I laugh a ton during the play, which is bizarre and wonderful,” Asofsky stated. “Even if you’ve seen the play before, we’ve done our own unique spin on it. It feels really warm and fun, and we take it very seriously; but it’s very lighthearted and very inviting.” ❖

All performances are set to start at 5:30 p.m. Reservations and donations can be made at 

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