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06 Final Concept

I’m going to articulate this in 3 parts:

  1. What is the reason for me to choose this particular play and what is my take on the play?

  2. How did I adapt the script for a 75-minutes performance? What am I focusing on?

  3. How does the concept change when translating to a virtual platform?

What is the reason for me to choose this particular play and what is my take on the play?

The time I decided to direct this play is around October 2019, about 4 months prior to the 2020 presidential election in Taiwan. Terrified by what was (and is still) going on in Hong Kong, I was one of the Taiwanese international students who were trying to get as many people to go back to vote in January 2020.

On top of that, the shadow of the result of 2018 referendums, especially the ones related to same-sex marriage laws in Taiwan (⅔ of the voters voted against them) was still over me. I couldn’t help but wonder, what does democracy mean in a time when fake news is all over the place and only a small group of people have the luxury to fact check them? How decisions were made and could they represent all of the people who consist of this society? What does citizen mean and what are their obligations? If we see an irrational, potentially brutal, decision is coming through the legal process in a democracy, how should we fight it and how far should we go? These questions resulted in my decision of directing an adaptation of Julius Caesar.

By directing this play, I wanted to invite everyone working on this play with me and the audience to contemplate on this question: Is “Democracy” and “Honor” worthwhile?

“Julius Caesar is a play that contemplates the meaning of honor and democracy on an

individual level in relationship with the whole society.” is the opening of the proposal last December. By tracking Brutus’ journey and the citizens’ reactions toward the decisions made by “important figures” in the play, I was hoping to highlight how hard she (as I adapted this play into an all-women cast, I’d use she/her/hers as the pronoun for characters) tried to do the best for her country, how easily people switch sides, and how ironic it is for her to know that she got into all these war with a person who doesn’t really care about honor (Cassius commits bribery all along).

The decision of doing this play with an all-women cast, to begin with, is because I couldn’t envision this play in another way. I am blessed to be born in an era when many great women leaders are making changes in many industries, then again, there’s still a long way to go before women can be whoever they want without confronting the daily malice in this society, designed by and originally for men. I wanted to see a world where it is normal for women to make crucial decisions in the military. To contemplate politics and honor by their own definition and don’t have a shadow of doubt on whether they should. To live by their own principles and die for their belief. If Shakespeare were born in a time like that, I don’t see why he wouldn’t make these characters women? And since he wasn’t and I’m longing to see that world, I thought I should make it alive on stage.

How did I adapt the script for a 75-minutes performance? What am I focusing on?

To me, the central character in this play is Brutus. And the person who changes her the most is Cassius, who plays tricks on her to bring her into this conspiracy in the name of honor and fails to live up to it, eventually leading Brutus to doubt her own belief and the inevitable failure. And thus most of the scenes between the two are kept (though trimmed.)

The second thing I considered was the crowd scenes with the present of commoner, which are:

Act I

  • Flavius and Maraullus condemn the commoners

  • The Soothsayer warns Caesar of the ides of March (there’s no line for commoners but I still consider them being present in this scene)


  • Brutus gives explanations to (satisfies) the citizens

  • Antony incites the citizens

  • Citizens tear Cinna the Poet

Initially, I kept all these scenes for the studio version to show the character of the crowd in this Rome. I cut off Cinna the Poet scene, which was one of my favorites, in the final version as I couldn’t think of a way to translate the physical violence that is at the heart of the scene onto a virtual platform.

The reason why I didn’t keep any of the women characters (Portia and Calpurnia) is mainly because their existence in the original play feels like saying, “Well, you men end up like that ‘cause you never listen to what women have to say,” which wouldn’t work in an all-women version. Also the idea of bloodline, which is one of the keys of the almost all-men version of the play, weakened by the decision of an all-women cast and thus affect my selection of the scenes.

There are also some parts of the original language about women that I don’t like but I still had some of them in the final adaptation- it’s probably a longer subject to talk about as I don’t think I have them all figured out even till now.

The rest of the scene selection was based on how I wanted the audience to see the characters and how to tell the story clearly. For example, I really like how straight-forward Casca is in the thunder scene, especially the first response, “A Roman.” The speech Antony gives in the funeral scene is so classic and so sneaky that I felt my heart was bleeding when trimming it.

To sum up, my focus on this adaptation is to make it an understandable story revealing how Brutus steps into this conspiracy for democracy and honor but ends up facing an existential crisis and then dying for it.

How does the concept change when translating to a virtual platform?


Let’s call the 3 versions of concept for online Julius Caesar Adaptation Plan A, B, and C.

The most significant difference between Plan A and Plan B, C is that I still attempted to create an illusion that all the characters are physically present in the same space in Plan A.

Plan A was proven unachievable in the first rehearsal after spring break as the delays that day were brutal and I didn’t believe the interactions between actors even though they were still great in delivering the lines. Something about people interacting with one another through the internet in a manner that is supposed to take place in an in-person space just didn’t feel right to me.

Frustrated, I came up with Plan B by the end of that week, with the attempt to free actors (and myself) from feeling the need to pretend that they were in the same place when they weren’t and to hide their frustration of whatever was going on in our reality. I did that by establish 2 things:

  • All the characters in this adaptation are separated in their own space, connected by the internet as we are; this is a Rome struck by a serious pandemic

  • The actors are fully aware that they are playing all these characters as MFA acting students and are entitled to get out of the characters to talk as themselves whenever the situation comes to a place that is unsavable (e.g. one of them is suffer from huge delay and the scene partner couldn’t take it no more)

By fulfilling this plan, we found a way to make use of what we learned about interacting with people through online conference software in our ongoing online sessions and the comfort came with this actually allowed actors to focus on the risks their characters were taking moment to moment.

After rehearsing Plan B for the second week, Plan C came super clear to me: All we had to do was translate all the locations to a virtual platform. The second setting of Plan B was not necessary as the characters themselves could be annoyed by the inevitable delays during the scene. I never said it out loud to the actors because they were already doing that even before I realized it. It’s always a blessing to have a talented cast.


I had the same color palette for the studio version and the online version. The only difference was the medium.

In the studio version, what I had to consider were the texture of the costume, the set, and the lighting; in an online version, I had to think more on font selection, style of animations, and configuration of display captures.

Similar to what I discovered on the acting side, I realized the more I use the language of existing online entertainments, the more real the scenes felt to me as a viewer. And thus the virtual locations I selected with the help of actors are: online conference software in the gallery view, online conference software in the speaker view (only when Caesar/Antony is present), a phone call, a live-stream platform with flying captions (彈幕), and an online game competition (I was thinking about making animations like HP bar and stuff but I ran out of time). Those interfaces are quite familiar to me as I kind of grew up with them. The only thing that is probably not helping is that I personally like the retro game aesthetic but it has nothing to do with the time of the adaptation nor the story I was trying to tell.

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