College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

SCSF puts on 'Julius Caesar' with a twist

Julius Caesar

This month, students join professional actors in a performance of "Julius Caesar" for the 10th anniversary of Southern California Shakespeare Festival at Cal Poly Pomona.

SCSF is a professional Actors' Equity Association company hosted at CPP.

Every summer, students are invited to work on a Shakespeare stage production with professors from the theater department and professional actors, most of whom are CPP alumni.

This year, SCSF is producing "Julius Caesar," with a twist — the character of Julius Caesar is female. Her name remains Julius Caesar, and her role

has not been modified to reflect a more feminine name.

Theater Professor Linda Bisesti portrays the female Julius Caesar on stage. She is a professional actress who has appeared on popular shows such as "Criminal Minds" and "Pretty Little Liars."

Bisesti is also the festival's artistic director. She says that she was inspired to change Caesar's gender in light of the fact that Hillary Clinton may run for Presidential office next year.

"I think it's interesting to see a play talking about politics which is so timely," said Bisesti. "I felt that being a woman playing a woman, and not changing the gender to play it as a man, that it would be an interesting and innovative choice."

This is not the first time SCSF has changed the gender of a main character. In 2011, Richard III was recast as a woman.

Bisesti founded SCSF and continues to run the program on what she calls a "shoestring budget." This year's production of "Julius Caesar" is funded by grants, fundraisers and private donations from alumni and the local acting community. Bisesti said that that she started the SCSF to familiarize CPP students with a professional acting setting.

"I started the festival because I wanted the students here to be exposed to professional actors," said Bisesti. "I feel that it's very hard [for students] to be competitive if you don't start to get them competitive in terms of understanding how to work professionally while they're in college. We've been very successful [as] a lot of [students] have graduated from the program and have gone on to work professionally."

Only 35 people are involved in the production of the play, which include five CPP theater student actors. For these student actors, the allure of acting in the play stems from the fact that they will receive professional acting credit for their work. This will give them an edge over other actors when they enter the world of professional acting after graduation.

"It's really exciting for the students because we get to work alongside professionals," said Karina Lopez, a third-year theater student who plays Lucius. "Most of the cast are CPP alumni or professional actors and professors who teach us."

Theater students are also encouraged to work backstage. Joyce Hwang, a fourth-year theater student, volunteered to help with the production of the play despite having two other jobs. She was later invited to be one of the play's assistant stage managers.

"[At first] I didn't know it was students and professionals," said Hwang. "When one of the two assistant stage mangers dropped out, [Bisesti] asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, 'Heck yeah!' I told her I would do it for free, but we're all getting paid."

"Julius Caesar" will run until Oct. 5 at the Studio Theatre. The first three shows sold out completely. Admission for seniors, students, faculty and staff is $12. General admission is $15.

For more information and specific show dates, visit

Article by Cassandra Ortiz Originally appeared in The Poly Post on September 22, 2014.  View original article here.