Guests encountered an upbeat, pirate-themed animated soundtrack, dim lighting and minimal seating as they rushed into the theater at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center last week.

The Maryland Shakespeare Players, a fully student-run club, presented the story of Julius Caesar at the Cafritz Foundation Theatre this spring but with a notable, piratic twist inspired by works such as “Our Flag Means Death” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” 

Liam O’Donoghue, a senior mechanical engineering major who also serves as the show’s director, reconstructed this rendition to focus on historical connections between Shakespearean characters and pirate lore.

“This was an absolute pleasure to adapt,” O’Donoghue said. “I don’t think there was a single second where I found myself questioning the vision.”

It’s apparent that O’Donoghue effectively captured his desired pirate ambiance. Lights illuminated the opening scene, featuring a drunken crew of pirates joyously singing along with a red and white accordion to set the stage for the play’s eerie tone.

Cast member Noah Foster said the club made efforts to involve any experienced musicians in the cast to participate. There were a limited number of vocalists and just one accordion, he said.

“We did really well with the limited amount of people we had,” Foster, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences, said. 

[Lizzo’s faux industry exit sparks conversation about social media toxicity]

Despite these limitations, the play successfully incorporated music into the show and infused it with the pirate theme from the start.

Envisioning each pirate would be challenging without the help and expertise of Silmarien Grinath, a junior theatre major and the club’s costume designer whose work was far from unnoticed. 

Most of the corsets, flowy shirts and baggy pants were found through the club’s yearly trip to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, from club members’ closets and on a couple of trips to the thrift store. Grinath said she spent more than 60 hours designing, shopping and reconstructing the costumes. 

The pirate attire of senior economics major and club president Logan Delavan-Hoover, who took on the role of Marc Antony, included a reclaimed red coat that Grinath upcycled, underwent a unique transformation to make the coat appear bloody and torn.

“When we were first designing this, we knew that Caesar was going to be in a red coat,” Grinath said. “It was very nerve wracking to take this brand new coat and just go at it with scissors.”

Alongside the elaborate costumes and pirate theme, the club’s standout achievement lay in its remarkable presentation of Julius Caesar. The performers dazzled the audience with impressive delivery of lengthy lines and speeches, often infused with witty humor. 

O’Donoghue’s new adaptation retained the original plays themes of tyranny, betrayal and conspiracy. Playful pirate effects and sword fights complemented each point and injected a sense of fun absent from the original.

The captivating bond between the two main characters, Brutus and Cassius, stole the show. Their on-stage chemistry combined with their utmost dedication to portraying this relationship was remarkable. 

[‘Ohio Players’ sees different sides of The Black Keys]

The perfectly paced storyline quickly sped up with chaos in the second act. Of course, no play is truly Shakespearean without its infamous sword-fighting scenes. As the plot thickened, more swords arrived on the stage. Loud gasps filled the air as the cast jogged onto the stage, swords in hand or tucked into their baggy clothes.

Stella Garner, a sophomore journalism major, said there’s a concealed choreography element in the intense sword fight scenes of the play. Each swift movement is strategically planned and calculated for safety, as well as every boundary. Surprisingly, each fight carries dance components, Garner added.

The play explored and accurately presented the historical events of the Caesar era — infused with a mischievous pirate twist — while also spotlighting talent through reinvented characters.

“I think it just speaks to the cast’s ability to hit the ground running,” O’Donoghue said. “To have a show that is fantastic in spite of all the technical challenges that were thrown our way.”