Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern Presents OTHELLO: a digital production

Speakeysie News Desk — January 19, 2021

ATLANTA –We are so please that the Shakespeare Tavern will be once again offering their one-of-a-kind content! The show must go on!!

Othello

Directed by O’Neil Delapenha

Performances available for purchase February 4-28, 2021

A general, his wife, and his ensign walk into a room…only one survives! Find out who in Shakespeare’s tale of race, romance, reputation, and revenge. This production, filmed on stage, with nine actors during the scourge of the pandemic, shows just how far Iago will go to take that which he feels he is rightfully entitled. Betrayal and deceit abound as he burns down everything to destroy the world of his “friend,” Othello. Richard III, eat your heart out!

Filmed on The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse Stage November 2020

Director’s Bio

I am proud and altogether humbled to be the first black artist to direct a Main Stage production in The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s history. I have been a lover of Shakespeare’s works for the majority of my life, in fact my very first play was a production of Hamlet in the 5th grade. I played Polonius and spray painted my hair white to make myself look old. From those humble beginnings, I studied and performed Shakespeare in high school and college, until finding my current professional home in Atlanta and at The Tavern. My time in the hallowed walls of The Tavern has granted me numerous acting, teaching, learning, and even directing opportunities. I have co-directed two “Shakespeare Intensive for Teens” productions (The Tempest & Macbeth), along with several camp and residency performances. Outside of The Tavern, I have worked with Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival, based in Arizona and Shakespeare & Company based in Massachusetts. I also have to show love to Shakespeare on Draught, a company run by me and my talented friends. Here I have directed/assistant directed numerous shows, including Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet. I would like to thank Jeff Watkins and Kati Grace Brown for giving me this opportunity and my talented cast for sharing their gifts with me.

Director’s Notes

Othello has always been one of my favorite titles in The Bard’s canon. A play powered by tremendously complex characters, primal motives, and some of the most savage gaslighting seen in all of literature. All of these are just as prevalent and visceral in the world today–the world we like to think of as so much more enlightened and educated than in Shakespeare’s time.

What is different from Shakespeare’s era is that we as a society have learned from the mistakes of the past. I talk specifically of race and diversity on stage, or rather the lack thereof. I wanted a cast that was just as layered and multifaceted as the story we needed to tell. A production in which Othello was the only person of color is not something I wanted to present, nor thought it necessary. If you disagree, I respect your difference of opinion and recommend you seek out a more “homogeneous” production elsewhere.

Going into this project, I knew I would have to think as both a film director and a stage director because this show would blend both worlds. I was very inspired by the storytelling in my favorite musical, Hamilton. The story is about Alexander Hamilton, but much of it is told from the perspective of Aaron Burr, who serves as narrator. I wanted to highlight the direct similarity in Othello, which I feel is about Othello as told from the perspective of Iago. To help achieve this, we leaned hard into the Original Practice that the Atlanta Shakespeare Company is known for, but the camera lens had to serve as the eyes of our audience. Iago takes them on an inside journey through his world of deceit and lies, forcing our viewers to be his silent accomplices. My hope is that our watchers are treated to the most intimate viewing of our shows that they have ever felt.

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, I viewed the very thought of creating this project as an “Impossible Task”; a term often used by my friend and mentor Michael Toomey, a company member with Shakespeare & Company. We filmed Othello in rep with All’s Well That Ends Well, using the same cast and crew for both shows, all in about the span of two weeks. With such limited time, I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off. But, with each individual putting in countless hours, coming together as a team, and believing in ourselves, I’m proud to say that we did indeed pull off the impossible task. I hope you all enjoy!

Synopsis

Iago, ensign to the Moorish general Othello, in the service of the Venetian republic, is a man inwardly malevolent and envious, outwardly an honest soldier. Resolved, for his own reasons, to revenge himself upon Othello, he begins one midnight in Venice by getting Roderigo – Desdemona’s foolish suitor – to rouse her father with the news that Othello has stolen her. Brabantio at once accuses Othello at the Duke’s hastily convened council which is considering a threatened Turkish attack on Cyprus; but the Moor’s tale of his wooing, and Desdemona’s testimony, persuade all the senators except Brabantio himself. Othello is dispatched to govern Cyprus with his new lieutenant Cassio (of whom Iago is feverishly jealous), Desdemona following them with Iago and his wife Emilia.

The Turkish fleet has been dispersed in a tempest by the time the travelers reach Cyprus (Roderigo, still pursing Desdemona, is also there). On a night of celebration Cassio, who at Iago’s prompting has drunk unwisely, is involved in a brawl and disgraced. At Iago’s suggestion Cassio implores Desdemona to plead his cause; Othello, already distressed by Iago’s hints at infidelity, grows progressively inflamed. Iago makes diabolical play with a handkerchief (Othello’s gift) that Desdemona has dropped and that he ensures Cassio will unwittingly find. When Othello is overwhelmed by the falsehood that Desdemona is untrue, Iago arranges other “proof”, Othello swears to kill her; and envoys from Venice, who have come to recall him, leaving Cassio as governor, are horrified to see him strike his wife. Iago urges Roderigo to murder Cassio, and when the effort fails, stabs the dupe to death. Othello smothers Desdemona in her bed; Emilia, rousing the citadel, tells the truth about Iago, confirmed when in desperation he kills her. Whereupon Othello stabs himself, Iago is borne off to torture and Cassio rules in Cyprus.

-The Pocket Companion to Shakespeare’s Plays by J C Trewin

Dramatis Personae

Othello – Charlie Thomas

Iago – Sean Kelley

Desdemona – Patty de la Garza

Emilia/ Messenger – Mary Ruth Ralston

Roderigo – Nick Faircloth

Cassio – J.L. Reed

Brabantio/Montano – Chris Hecke

Duke of Venice/Lodovico – Destiny Freeman

Senator/Bianca – Kati Grace Brown

Production Crew

Film Production Company – Up the Hills

Lighting Designer – Mary Ruth Ralston

Fight Choreographer – Sean Kelley

Intimacy Choreographer – Kati Grace Brown

Original Costumes created by Anné Carole Butler

Costume Coordination by Kati Grace Brown and Laura Cole

COVID Safety Protocols for ASC Actors

Every actor and crew member were contractually required to adhere to these protocols: 

  • Everyone must take a COVID test and receive negative test results in the week prior to rehearsals beginning. 
  • Everyone must limit exposure as much as possible when outside of the theatre building and not take any unnecessary risks.
  • Temperatures were taken upon entering the building each day and must fall between 96-99 degrees in order to enter rehearsal. 
  • Everyone wore masks until Dress Rehearsal when actors removed masks (crew kept masks on throughout the entire process)
  • Each actor’s dressing room station was equipped with a personal hand sanitizer, reusable water bottle, tissue pack and miniature Listerine bottle. 
  • Actors were asked to bring a personal toothbrush and toothpaste to each rehearsal and day of filming.
  • Actors wore gloves throughout the rehearsal process and were able to request that gloves be incorporated into their costumes in order to avoid skin-to-skin contact. 
  • No actor that was experiencing symptoms of ANY illness or had even a potential risk of exposure to COVID-19 was permitted into the theatre building. 
  • All theatre spaces were sanitized daily throughout the rehearsal and filming process.
  • ASC staff members who were not working on these productions were not permitted to be in the building while the repertory ensemble was working in order to prevent outside exposure. 

General Tavern Information
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Social Media Links:

Twitter @shakespearetav

Facebook.com/ShakespeareTavern

Instagram: Shakespearetavernplayhouse

YouTube: ShakespeareTav

Ticket Prices:

Rental Price for a single household  is $20. Link is good for 30 days.
Group price for 10 or more viewers or if you want to download the performance to keep is $100.  

Purchase Tickets Online at www.shakespearetavern.com 

The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse is a registered 501 ( C ) 3 non-profit organization and is a member of The Actor’s Equity Association, the professional union of actors and stage managers.

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