Portia’s Julius Caesar

Written by:

Kaitlyn Riordan, William Shakespeare

Cast Size:
14

Roles For:

  • Men: 4
  • People of Colour: 1
  • Women: 10

Genre:

Historical
Tragedy

Themes:

Fertility
Loyalty
Politics

Length:

100 min.

Year Written:

2018

Synopsis:

Portia’s Julius Caesar finds best friends Portia and Calpurnia married to two of the most powerful men in Rome, Brutus and Caesar. With a baby in her arms, Portia is struggling to define her new role as a mother, while Calpurnia is making offerings to the gods in hopes of becoming pregnant for the first time. Meanwhile, Rome is teetering on the brink of becoming a monarchy, with Caesar’s sights set on being a King. Incorporating Brutus’ mother, Caesar’s mistress, and a slew of other new female characters, themes of fertility, loyalty, and the price we pay for our beliefs are explored in this female-focused re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

“Half the script is Riordan’s own writing; the other half is drawn from 17 Shakespeare plays including Julius Caesar, four sonnets, and a poem. Her achievement in weaving this all together so it comes across as a single, and credibly Elizabethan, voice is considerable…”
-Karen Fricker, Toronto Star 3.5/4 stars and named one of The Star’s Top Shows of 2018

Characters:

Women:
Portia – Strong Roman woman in her mid-30s and recent wife to Marcus Brutus, Roman senator and friend of Julius Caesar. Just became a Mother for the first time and is struggling with her new role. Her husband has begun excluding her from his political struggles and parenthood is taking a tole on their previously wonderful marriage.

Calpurnia – Best friend to Portia and wife of 15 years to Julius Caesar, mid-30s. While he was off fighting wars for most of their marriage, she took great solace in her friendship with Portia and now more than ever, as her husband is back and wants to become a King. Every King needs an heir, but Calpurnia is struggling to become pregnant. To make matters worse, Caesar’s mistress is living in Rome too, and showing off their baby boy, to anyone who will listen.

Servilia – Powerful Roman woman who is an influencer and maker of back room deals, mother of Marcus Brutus, 60s. Though not accepting of her son’s marriage to Portia, after ending his first marriage to a wife of Servilia’s choosing, she now needs Brutus to convince others that Caesar is a threat to the Republic. And the best way to Brutus is through Portia.

Soothsayer – Revered and feared throughout Rome, this female Soothsayer is ignored by Caesar, to his demise. Any age.

Casca – Powerful Courtesan about town (a male senator in Shakespeare’s play), she navigates Rome through its bedrooms and learns its secrets. Any age.

Cleopatra – Queen of Egypt, master politician, and mistress to Caesar, 20s.

Esther – Foreign slave in a noble household. She is tough and has been in Rome long enough to know how to navigate it to get her way, 40s.

Vera – Foreign slave in Servilia’s household. She has been in Rome a long time. She has a son who means the world to her and who also serves Servilia, 40s.

Cecilia – Foreign slave in Servilia’s household. She is new to Rome and is pregnant, 20s.

Jurtha – Foreign slave in Portia & Brutus’ household, she has her head in the clouds and is full of mischief. Any age.

Men:
Julius Caesar – Husband of Calpurnia, lover to Cleopatra, and leader of Rome with aspirations of becoming a King and transforming Rome from a Republic to a Monarchy.

Marcus Brutus – Husband of Portia, son of Servilia, and Roman senator grappling with how to prevent his good friend Caesar from destroying the Republic that he is determined to protect.

Caius Cassius – Son-in-law to Servilia and close friend of Brutus, Cassius is another Roman senator determined to stem Caesar’s ambition. With the guidance of Servilia, he wants to enlist Brutus and help lead the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar.

Mark Antony – Caesar’s right hand man, Mark Antony is a great military hero and playboy.

First Produced:

Shakespeare in the Ruff produced Portia’s Julius Caesar in the summer of 2018 from August 16th to September 3rd in Withrow Park, Toronto. It was directed by Eva Barrie and starred Christine Horne as Portia.

Resources:

Portia’s Julius Caesar is available through the CPO Website.

To view more plays like this, click here.

Notes:

The casting of this play can go one of many ways. The original production had 8 principal actors (4W, 4M) and then a Roman Chorus of 3 (2W, 1M) who played the co-conspirators and the citizens of Rome. Along with the four principal male roles, the men also played the four Washer Women. This is not a necessary convention, but worked very well in the original production as it was done with sensitivity and care.

In regard to number of roles for people of colour: minimum 1 (Actress playing Cleopatra), though at least parity in terms of casting artists of colour and white artists is strongly encouraged.