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Julius Caesar gets an upgrade in new McNary play, #Caesar

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School is bringing William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar to the Ken Collins Theater stage May 17-20 but instead of physically murdering Caesar they are socially murdering him.

The play, adapted by McNary drama director Dallas Myers with the help of students, is titled #Caesar and takes place in a present day high school.

“We’re all students and we’re reading Julius Caesar but these students are these characters in real life,” said McNary senior Josiah Henifin, who plays Brutus. “This is all actually taking place in the classroom. We’re reading it in class and those same things are actually happening in the classroom.”

All four performances begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and available at

The play has a strong anti-bullying message.

“It’s about bullying and the use of social media and technology and how we’re talking behind people’s backs and spreading horrible things about each other,” Henifin said. “That’s how it actually is in high school and we’re trying to show the reality of that though this play. It’s really powerful.”

McNary senior Annie Purkey plays one of the biggest bullies—Cassius.

“The thing I like about placing it in a school is the important message that we bring to it, which is bullying and how deeply your words can affect other people, especially in a high school setting where that’s super prevalent,” Purkey said. “It’s the perfect show to set in a high school.”

Purkey, who’s been picked on in the past, wanted to see what it was like to be a bully.

“I wanted to be something that’s not like me at all so that I can really act,” Purkey said. “I was thrilled to find out that I was Cassius because he’s a big bully. Playing that kind of role where you’re the one that starts the rumors for your own personal gain, it’s kind of come full circle for me so that I can try to put myself in the people’s shoes that did it to me and really have empathy for everyone all around. Hopefully it will be something impactful so that people can look at my character and see just how wrong it is to do that kind of thing.”

McNary is using a series of movements to show the damage bullying can have at a high school.

“This is the most intensive theatre physical that we’ve done in this show,” Purkey said. “That piece in itself is really cool because it tells the story in a very different visual way instead of just the lines. Through the movement we do different pieces that end up leaving people alone and by themselves.”

Everyone is affected by the bullying, not just Brutus, which really comes out in the Battle of Philippi scene.

“Everybody has had their backs turned on them at one point so it’s showing how far that can escalate and it really does affect every single person,” Purkey said.

Senior Spencer Lamb, who plays Caesar, said the dialogue in the play still sounds a lot like Shakespeare, including long monologues. He also recommends people pay close attention to the way the different characters move.

“This is the play where you should observe the movements and how people are interacting with people a lot more,” Lamb said. “A lot of our transitions and some of our story telling moments are seen through large movement pieces.”

While Henifin, Purkey and Lamb are all seniors and have been in many McNary productions over the years, #Caesar will be the first for freshman Isabel Pineda, who plays one of the conspirators plotting against Caesar.

Pineda has never taken a theatre class but has wanted to give it a try ever since watching her cousins preform in shows at McNary.

“It’s a little nerve-racking,” Pineda said. “I’ve never done a super huge production like this and I’ve seen what McNary has done in the past and I know that it’s very big and it draws quite a bit of attention to their shows. But it feels so good to be part of such a wonderful community, like everyone in the group has been supportive right from the beginning.”