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Any modern production of Othello raises questions, and hackles. The play’s almost unbearable emotional power is entangled for any audience—both Shakespeare’s and our own—with the sometimes intractable social and historical questions of race, religion, gender, and more. In Public Shakespeare Presents: SPEAK OF ME AS I AM: OTHELLO ON STAGE, a lively, in-depth discussion with selected readings from the play by a panel of scholars and artists will grapple with the fraught heart and history of this deeply challenging, astonishing and enduring work. Has its troubled production history rendered it unplayable—or indeed, unwatchable—for a contemporary audience? Or is the play more moving, more disturbing, and more essential than ever? Panelists will include Columbia University's James Shapiro, George Washington University's Ayanna Thompson and cast members from this summer's Delacorte production, including Heather Lind (Desdemona), Corey Stoll (Iago), Alison Wright (Emilia), and Motell Foster (Roderigo) reading the role of Othello.Click here to read a synopsis of OTHELLO.
On May 14, we’ll explore the questions that arise when Shakespeare’s Othello intersects with the ideas, questions, impulses, conflicts, and frustrations currently animating our society. Written, performed, and illustrated by artist Phoebe Boswell, this beautiful video puts us in the right frame of mind for our conversation by powerfully articulating some of the challenges that Othello poses for contemporary artists and audiences – and why it keeps drawing us in.Still of Ashley Thomas in "Dear Mr Shakespeare: Shakespeare Lives"
“Othello and Blackface”
The title of this podcast from the Folger Shakespeare Library might be “Othello and Blackface,” but its rich discussion ranges much further. Listen as professors Ayanna Thompson and Ian Smith speak candidly about the challenges of examining Othello through the lens of race in academia and theaters today, as well as the play’s legacy of performance featuring blackface and a surprising discovery by Professor Smith about its fateful handkerchief. Logo from Folger Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare Unlimited podcast
Playing the Moor
In 1998, a young Hugh Quarshie argued that, “of all the parts in the canon,” Othello might be the one black actors should hesitate most to play, lest in doing so, they reinforce dangerous and racist stereotypes. Only in 2010 did Quarshie ultimately accept the role, hoping to challenge those same stereotypes with the most powerful means at his disposable: his own performance. His thinking about the play is recorded in this article from The Guardian, along with history of how the part has been interpreted.Photo of Joanna Vanderham (left) and Hugh Quarshie in Royal Shakespeare Theatre's production of "Othello" | Photo Credit: Zuleika Henry
Desdemona & Emilia
In a play dominated by the machinations of theater’s most infamous liar, the women of Othello stand out as vital truth-tellers. Yet all of them, from the inquiring Bianca to the pragmatic Emilia and the indefatigable Desdemona, suffer betrayal and abuse – and in Desdemona’s case, murder at the hands of the one she loves most. In this clip and others from a 2015 event, “Desdemona & Emilia,” revisit how Public Forum examined these two characters to consider how their experiences of violence and love still resonate today.Photo of Liza Colon-Zayas (left) and Jessica Chastain in The Public Theater and LAByrinth Theater Company's production of "Othello" | Photo Credit: Armin Bardel
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Public Shakespeare Presents: SPEAK OF ME AS I AM: OTHELLO ON STAGEMonday, May 14 at 7pmWith Motell Foster, Heather Lind, James Shapiro, Corey Stoll, Ayanna Thompson, and Alison Wright
The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust provides leadership support for The Public Theater’s year-round activities.
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