Et tu, Albany?- Exclusive interview with ‘Julius Caesar’ actor Chris Bellinger
By Leobianny Hilario
“Et tu, Brutus?”
The line from William Shakespeare’s famous play, “Julius Caesar,” has been heard around the world, remade in numerous adaptations, and is now being produced by the University at Albany. The Performing Arts Center has teamed up with the American Shakespeare Center, whom are performing in 20 locations in over 10 states. The show will take place Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty-staff.
The play is being supported by the Writers Institute and the College of Arts and Science and will include live acoustic music and a performance true to Shakespearian style. The following interview with Chris Bellinger, who will be portraying Caesar himself, discusses what this play will bring about.
Q: How is this production bringing something new to this story?
Chris Bellinger: I think that every production brings something new just because of who’s doing it, that changes from production to production. I actually think we are trying to put something new by bringing something old which has to do with Shakespeare original lines and towards this show in particular – they have period costuming. So this is as close as people get to seeing the show as it actually looked. And I think that is actually pretty exciting and fun to see. It’s far more fun than what your English teacher leads you to believe.
Q: Who in the show is most like their character?
CB: Gosh, nobody in the play is really nice so I hope no one is like their character… Josh Innerst plays Brutus, I guess he would be most like his character. Brutus is a steady guy, you know? He thinks everything through, he’s kind of private. That sounds like Josh, not that I think Josh is going to stab me in the back anytime soon but Brutus has a lot of great qualities so I’m going to go with that since everybody else’s in the show are not as nice.
Q: Are there any similarities with you and Caesar?
CB: Of course there are for me, that’s kind of how you play a character, one of the first things you do is find out how they are like you. You can’t just put Caesar as ‘that guy’ who’s the jerk, he is more like ‘that guy’ who knows everybody’s name, who’s actively involved in the people that he deals with but ultimately has people who think that his vision doesn’t match up with the vision of the people around him. Even when he’s angry it’s not because he’s a jerk it’s just because he wants desperately for things to go well, I think we can all relate to that. There is a quote I go by that goes “You don’t have to like your character but you have to love your character.” Nobody ever believes that they are evil, not just on stage but in real life, you have to understand because they have to have reason to do things beyond, “I’m evil and I’m going to do this because I’m evil,” nobody thinks like that because that’s not how real people function.
Q: What is the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
CB: The biggest challenge is that he’s temperamental and so there are a lot of moments when he is nice but stern and then he switches out on a lot of people. When his emotions change you have to justify in your head all the reasons why he suddenly gets mad or upset. And that’s a challenge, just going through those changes and that’s probably the thing I’ve worked the hardest on over the course of the rehearsal.
Q: How long did you rehearse for the show?
CB: We rehearse for about two and a half weeks to each show that we do. We spent about two months with those three shows and touring. We not only rehearse the show but also the music that we play throughout.
Q: Do you ever get starstruck?
CB: I manage not to get too starstruck. I might have to take big breathes before I go see them but the cool thing about theatre is I think it helps me realize that they are just people even if they are people you respect and admire but at least it helps you think before you speak.
Q: What is the last thing you do before you go up on stage?
CB: Well I take deep breathes, especially in Shakespeare where you have these long lines and such. Another thing we do is go up and stretch and some people do yoga just to help them relax. I try to say my lines before the show and take a moment to be still and take deep breathes.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
CB: I love everything we do, I love the traveling, I love the performing. In about 1996 I was in high school and I saw them perform the first live Shakespeare and I said to myself “I want to do that!” and I put it off for about 20 years until my wife convinced me to. So this is like my dream job ever since I was young, so the best thing I like my job is the fact that I have my job. Just being able to be on that stage and do Shakespeare the way we do Shakespeare at this company with the original staging and it’s just really fun… it’s just really cool.