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Director Reveling in 'CAESAR' Mystery

(c) Daily Break

July 4, 1993

By Teresa Annas

YOU COULD YANK out the quills from his Elizabethan cap and drive them under his fingernails. You could make him squeeze into size 2 tights.

No matter what the torture, Jerry H. Bledsoe, artistic director of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, won't divulge his approach on "Julius Caesar." "I'm just not telling," he said, firmly.

The Bard's great tragedy continues Tuesday night at 8 at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall in Williamsburg. It runs in repertory through July 25, alternating with Shakespeare's lesser-known comedy, "All's Well That Ends Well."

Then, what will he reveal about "Caesar"?

"Suffice it to say it's an innovative production that is hyper-traditional. In all likelihood you will probably never see it done this way any place else," he said, reveling in his mystery.

Bledsoe is directing "Caesar," which he described as "a play about political assassination. And it's really about the fact that political assassination is never justifiable. There's an awful price we pay when it is indulged in, for whatever reason."

So often the character roles get overemphasized in "Caesar," said Bledsoe. He opted to stress Brutus, the Roman senator who murders Caesar rather than see him crowned and lose the Republic.

Brutus "is a rationalist, which is his tragic flaw and his great strength. He rationalizes that if Caesar becomes emperor he would become a tyrant. Having killed him, the entire government crashes around his ears - and he has to deal with all the consequences."

Brutus is played by Steven Culp, the festival's guest artist. The Virginia Beach native lives in Los Angeles, where he works in television, film and theater. He portrayed Lincoln's secretary in the television miniseries "Gore Vidal's Lincoln."

"Ever since I saw him" in that role, Bledsoe said, "I've been trying to get him to come work with us. Finally, he was able to work us into his career plans."

Culp also will play the King of France in "All's Well."

"A lot of people call it a dark comedy," Bledsoe said, "but there's a lot of farce and brightness about that play."

Helena, a woman of rare powers, travels to Paris and falls for Bertram, who serves in the king's court. Bertram isn't wild for her. The only way she'll win him, he tells Helena, is if she becomes pregnant by him. So she tricks him.

Indeed, Bledsoe said, "It ends well. Or, swell. All's swell that ends swell."

James Luse, a literary consultant for Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn., will direct "All's Well." Luse is a seven-year veteran of the Williamsburg festival, as director and actor.

Sharing the stage with Culp will be 13 acting interns, college theater students who work for free in exchange for a training program, plus eight volunteer community actors.

What: Two Virginia Shakespeare Festival productions - "Julius Caesar" and "All's Well That Ends Well."
Where: Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, College of William and Mary, Jamestown Road, Williamsburg
When: "Caesar" continues Tuesday night at 8. "All's Well" opens Friday. Shows run in repertory through July 25.
How much: Tickets are $10; $18 for both shows.
Call: 1-221-2674

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