A traitorous friend, an innocent accused, a noble soul destroyed amidst racial jealousy, mistrust and hatred. The tragedy of Othello, first performed in 1604, remains one of William Shakespeare’s darkest and most compelling works, its dissection of power and anxiety all too contemporary.
In November, the Aquila Theatre Company, one of the nation’s finest producers of touring classical drama, will launch Washington University’s 31st annual Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series with a new adaptation of Othello set on a military base on modern-day Cyprus. The production, created by Aquila associate artistic director Robert Richmond and producing artistic director Peter Meineck, combines the Bard’s peerless language with an original score, inventive staging and epic, film-like visual flair.
The special one-night-only event will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, and is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a nationwide, 100-community touring initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Sallie Mae Fund in cooperation with Arts Midwest.
Tickets are $28 for the general public; $23 for seniors, students and subscriptions of four or move OVATIONS! events; and $14 for Washington University students and children under 12. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-6543.
Othello, a Moor and mercenary for the Venetian army, has secretly married Desdemona, daughter of a high-powered senator. Iago, Othello’s trusted ensign — envious of Othello’s success defending Cyprus against Turkish attack and enraged at being passed over for promotion — plants seeds of doubt about Desdemona’s fidelity in Othello’s mind. Meanwhile, with Machiavellian cruelty, Iago advises Desdemona to act in ways that only fuel her husband’s suspicions.
Throughout the play, Iago boldly confesses his plotting — “the net that shall enmesh them all” — to the audience. Thus, Othello becomes a fascinating psychological study not only of the title character’s growing jealousy and rage, but of an almost gleeful yet ultimately impenetrable villainy.
Veteran British actor Lloyd Notice, who has previously appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company, stars as Othello, with Aquila composer/musical director Anthony Cochrane as Iago and Kathryn Merry, who recently appeared as Ophelia in Ravi Jain’s Hamlet, as Desdemona.
The Aquila Theatre Company was founded by Meineck in London in 1991 and is Professional Company in Residence at the Center for Ancient Studies at New York University. Comprised of both British and American players, the troupe has won critical and academic acclaim worldwide, with extensive touring throughout Europe, the United States and Canada and special performances at such venues as the British Museum, the McNay Art Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Aquila’s many honors include the prize for Dramatic Excellence from the Greek government and several prestigious British Council Touring awards. The Aquila Education Program has been presented at more than 150 North American theaters and universities. Its original translations of Greek plays are published by Hackett Press.
Aquila made its St. Louis debut in 2002 at Edison Theatre with Shakespeare’s The Tempest and The Wrath of Achilles, the latter of which re-set Homer’s The Iliad during World War II. Other previous tours have included Agamemnon (1991); Ajax (1992); Coriolanus (1993); Julius Caesar (1997-98); The Odyssey/The Comedy of Errors (1998-99); King Lear/The Iliad/Oedipus Tyrannus (1999-00); and Much Ado About Nothing/Cyrano De Bergerac (2000-01).
In addition to Aquila Theatre, Shakespeare in American Communities features The Acting Company (New York) in Richard III; the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (Little Rock) in Romeo and Juliet; The Artists Repertory Theatre (Portland, Ore.) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Chicago Shakespeare Theater in Romeo and Juliet; and the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis) in Othello. For more information, visit www.nea.gov/endownews/news03/ShakespeareMaterials.html.
Edison Theatre’s OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis. Focusing on presentations that are interdisciplinary, multicultural and/or experimental, Edison Theatre presents work intended to challenge, educate and inspire.
Edison Theatre programs are supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis.