At the bottom of this post you’ll see several links leading you to responses to the St. Louis Black Reperatory Company’s production of “Othello.” Some I feel are reactionary and some responsive. But, here, speaking directly for herself from the “Othello” program notes is Chris Anthony. —JGR
From Chris Anthony’s letter in the “Othello” prograM
“The word conversation has been a recurring theme in my exploration of this play. Like most great conversations, this one begins with a question. How is a conversation about Othello in context with the rest of the Black Rep’s 31st season, the Season of the Storyteller? …You may ask ‘What does Shakespeare have to say to the largest black theater subscriber base in the country:’ or ‘What did Shakespeare have to say to August Wilson, Wole Soyinka, Djanet Sears or Mbongeni Ngema?’ [the other playwrights in the series]
“More to the point, how is a black theatre company going to do a play with one black character? …Typically the cast of Othello has two black actors: Othello and Othello’s undeerstudy. Black perfomers don’t usually get to tackle the other fantastic roles in this play…
“In a play with so many references to ‘light’ and ‘dark,’ the answer is in the text. Let’s talk about skin color. Let’s put it out there and use the Shakepeare text to speak to our experience and use our experience to illuminate Shakespeare….
“In this production our Venice looks like early 20th century New Orleans with a very color-conscious Creole society. New Orleans is also the birthplace of the Buffalo Soldiers, a proud regiment of ‘colored’ soldiers that was formed following the Civil War. On our stage, Othello is a Buffalo Soldier who marries a Creole princess and promotes the fair skinned Cassio over the brown-skinned Iago. I love the connections and connotations, the questions and revelations that this concept allows me to see.
“Through it all, Shakespeare’s univeral themes of passion, jealousy and love live as vibrantly as ever.”
Hot Calendar for Cool Culture, “Seeds of Doubt”Although written 400 years ago, it seems we as human beings still fall prey to these same themes of jealousy and doubt. The play made me think of the times in my life when I was too quick to judge someone and think badly of them.
St. Louis Arts & Entertainment, Kid Creole, Riverfront Times By evening’s end we don’t care where Othello is set. Once again — though on this outing, almost in spite of itself — the agony of a man who loved not wisely, but too well, becomes absorbing theater.