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Shakespeare and lightning: a riveting mix

caesarlightning

Sure, most folks in the Valley got treated to a lightning show last night. But not many people were actually in a show — outside — while it happened. With the Woodward Shakespeare Festival production of “Julius Caesar” opening Thursday, cast and crew were in the park on Monday, ready to slog through the first tech rehearsal. What they didn’t count on was nature’s electric entertainment. Cast member Michael Peterson writes on Facebook:

Wow, what a night! In nine years of doing Woodward Shakespeare Festival we’ve never had a rehearsal like that one.

As we were setting up, the storm came in from the east, an odd direction, but as you’ll no doubt agree, that was no ordinary Fresno storm. I was up on the second level and could see the rain off in the distance. I warned Christopher Campbell, our technical director that he might want to be wary about the equipment. He made a morbid jest in return about staying away from the lighting towers. Ten minutes later, the skies opened up and we all scrambled to collect the microphones and other sensitive gear.

We decided to push on with just a read through, even though it’s tech week, and we were really there to iron out the timing of cues and such, but it was an extremely worthwhile choice. Drenched in rain, and squealing with delight at each fresh flash of lightning and peal of thunder, the cast was united by the adversity and we ran our lines with a joy and camaraderie like never before.

To get the chance to speak Casca’s lines, when I say to Cicero, “I have seen tempests when the scolding winds have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen the ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam to be exalted with the threatening clouds, but never ’till tonight, never ’till now, have I come through a tempest dropping fire!” under a sky filled with actual lightning bolts and crashing thunder is an experience I won’t soon forget.

I hope we can still bring a little of this sparkling electricity to each and every night’s performance and I hope you all will be able to join us in the park, starting this Thursday, for what should be an amazing close to this year’s WSF season, our play, “Julius Caesar.”

Can you imagine doing the “toil, toil” scene from “Macbeth” in a lightning storm? You’d be ready to believe in witches, too.

Photo: Bridget Martin as Portia and Jay Parks as Brutus on Monday night, via director Erica Riggs.

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