Malcolm and Caesar Combine in 'Julius X' Production

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Byline: TAMARA McCLARAN

A story that blends Shakespeare's Tragedy of Julius Caesar with the life and times of civil rights leader Malcolm X highlights the next production at Players by the Sea. Julius X, by nationally known Jacksonville playwright Al Letson, will open on the Jacksonville Beach community theater's main stage Friday, Feb. 1.

Set in 1960s Harlem, Julius X is a political thriller about power struggles and betrayal. Letson weaves together Julius Caesar and slain civil rights leader Malcolm X by taking Shakespeare's plot and language and combining it with Malcolm X's history, African mythology and hip-hop. The story is new and different, featuring poetry that ranges from Shakespearian soliloquies to slam poetry.

"It's fascinating in the way Al meshes the two together in this piece," said Players Educational Director Barbara Colaciello Williams, who is directing Julius X. "It's brilliant the way he took the story of Julius Caesar and merged it with the story of Malcolm X."

Julius X auditions were held five months ago. Williams has assembled a 22-member cast. The characters in this story include Julius (played by Freddy Odinga Tripp), a devout, humble man who is more like Malcolm X than Caesar and Brutus (played by Larry Knight). Brutus is one of Julius' most trusted assistants, who loves Julius deeply but feels conflicted. There is also Cassius (played by David Girard), who is a lone wolf with no loyalty to anyone except himself, and Marc Anthony (played by Steven Anderson), a firebrand of a speaker who regards Julius as a father figure. The female roles include Miranda Lawson, who plays Portia, Brutus' wife, and Deltoiya Goodman is Calpurnia, Julius X's wife.

Lawson has performed in several productions at Players by the Sea and poets Knight and Girard both appeared in Griot: He Who Speaks the Sweet Word, which they co-wrote with Letson. …