For the Love of Rome: Et Tu, Brute?

Peggy Yin Drama Nov 22, 2019

Few throughout history demonstrate the Roman value of pietas as nobly as Brutus, the quintessential Roman in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. He is the play's tragic hero, a powerful yet devoted politician and husband who is forced to choose between his country and his loved ones. In seeking to do what is right, he leads the assassination of his friend and colleague, Julius Caesar under the justification that Caesar's actions and popularity will bring about the demise of the Roman Republic. Brutus' unrelenting idealism defines and destroys him as he repeatedly underestimates the self-serving nature of mankind.

Brutus (Katherine Kirsch) has a terrifying dream of Caesar (Nathan Evans). Photo by Michelle Parsick.

"This is my first character that's definitively and obviously a lead, so it's a lot of pressure. It's different because the previous characters I've played have been mostly comic relief," says Katherine (Kitty) Kirsch, who will be playing Brutus in the drama club's production of Julius Caesar.

Kitty faced the challenge of balancing Brutus' conflicting character traits with her own. Specifically, it took some time for her to figure out anger: she had to learn how to shout, which is something even those closest to her have never heard her do.

"You have just suspend Kitty and become just as anxious and scared and as trying to become stoic in the face of something that's so heart wrenching to Brutus," Kitty says. "After the first month or so, it's kind of natural to just switch into that character...There's a lot of conflict between him and another conspirator, Cassius, who's played by Liam. You see that in a really fun scene where I get to just yell at him---I'm so excited for that, it's so fun."

That's not to say the two are totally dissimilar.

"I think the thing that stays the same between me and Brutus is that we both try to avoid---we try to go the best course of action with the least amount of people injured, like I'm not a very petty person, and neither is Brutus," Kitty says. "Everything he does is for Rome, everything he does is for the good of Rome, and everything he does he has what's moral and what's correct in the back of his mind."

Brutus (Katherine Kirsch) plotting Caesar's murder with co-conspirator Cassius (Liam Sproul). Photo by Michelle Parsick.

Though Brutus appears stoic, Kitty empathizes with him deeply. "If it's a more emotional scene, sometimes I'll just feel that emotion. There's a kind of sad scene where I'm arguing with Portia, who's my wife, and I genuinely feel upset in that moment, and even after Mr. Butera stops us to give some direction, I still carry that sadness in Kitty," she says. She adds that the depth of Brutus' emotion has is revealed through blocking: "I'm showing the audience how I'm feeling, but the people are normally behind me, so they can't really see my face. So the people behind me perceive me as stoic, the people in the audience recognize my torment."

Ultimately, Kitty views Julius Caesar as a relevant reminder of modern times. "There's a lot of aspects of the story of a tyrant that can be applied to modern resonates with different time periods and it resonates with different places...The point of Brutus is that it's an archetype that can be seen throughout history. It's like Julius Caesar and the story of Caesar is a story of a tyrant getting too much power and a coup led by a leader that had noble interests in mind," she says. "So Brutus' character is kind of the leader of the coup against Caesar but he's kind of polluted by the other characters that have more selfish interests...It's important to keep in mind that this is a story that can be applied to different eras."

Come watch the High School Drama Club's production of Julius Caesar Friday (November 22) and Saturday (Nov. 23) at 7:00pm, or Sunday (Nov. 24) at 2:00pm!

Peggy Yin

Peggy Yin is The Current’s founder. In addition to being an aspiring cognitive neuroscientist, she's an award-winning writer, vocalist, flutist, and kazooist! She is currently attending Harvard.

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