Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Set for OTHELLO 5/25-6/17 -Billy Eugene Jones and Justin Blanchard Star

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Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will present a free production of OTHELLO from 5/25 to 6/17, 2012 at Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park nightly at 8pm with previews 5/23-24.

Venice is on the brink of war with Turkey over control of the island of Cyprus. Othello, an African Moor, is employed as a general in the Venetian army. He has secretly eloped with Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio, a wealthy Venetian Senator. When Brabantio discovers this he demands the Venetian Duke annul the marriage. The Duke refuses, prioritizing the preservation of Venice’s economy and the threat of war over Brabantio’s social outrage. Accompanied by Desdemona, Othello and the Venetian soldiers set off for Cyprus and war.

The scene shifts to Cyprus where the Turkish fleet is destroyed by a storm at sea, averting the threat of war. Othello takes over command of Cyprus as its Governor.

Meanwhile, Iago, an ensign in Othello’s service, is enraged that Othello has chosen a rich young officer from Florence, Michael Cassio, to be his Lieutenant, passing over Iago for promotion. Iago further suspects that his wife, Emilia, has had an affair with Othello, an unfounded suspicion. For these perceived injuries, Iago decides to exact revenge by convincing Othello that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona, in hopes of ruining Cassio’s reputation, getting his job, and destroying Othello’s happiness.

Iago succeeds through a series of machinations. He gulls Roderigo, a rich young Florentine in love with Desdemona, into helping him by promising that, in return, Roderigo will gain Desdemona’s love. He discredits Cassio by getting him drunk and maneuvering him into initiating a fight with Roderigo that quickly deteriorates into an all-out brawl that threatens to disrupt the peace in Cyprus. Othello strips Cassio of his Lieutenancy and appoints Iago in his place.

Unsatisfied with this result alone, Iago poisons Othello’s imagination with thoughts of his wife’s infidelity. He suggests that Desdemona will ultimately choose to be with someone more like her: white, Venetian and upper class; and that if she is capable of fooling her father and secretly eloping with Othello she is capable of all manner of deception. Iago secures one of Desdemona’s handkerchiefs from his wife, Emilia, who is Desdemona’s companion. The handkerchief was a gift from Othello given during their courtship. Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio’s lodgings. Unaware of where the handkerchief came from or its significance, Cassio asks Bianca, a courtesan with whom he’s having an affair, to have the handkerchief copied because he likes the design. Iago makes sure that Othello sees Cassio give the hankie to Bianca.

Convinced of an affair between Cassio and his wife, Othello asks Iago to kill Cassio. Iago convinces Roderigo to help him. Cassio is wounded in the attack and Iago kills Roderigo to silence him. Othello kills the innocent Desdemona and only afterwards learns that Iago has lied about everything. Having lost the one true love of his life as well as his honor, Othello kills himself. Iago is apprehended and tortured and Cassio becomes the Governor of Cyprus.

Justin Blanchard as Iago's Broadway credits include Journey’s End, Off-Broadway: Hamlet, Henry V (title roles, NY Classical), Macbeth, The Broken Heart (Theatre for a New Audience), The Witch of Edmonton (Red Bull), KIDSTUFF (Partial Comfort). Regional: McCarter Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, Shakespeare Theatre of D.C., Long Wharf, Hangar Theatre and Trinity Rep. TV: “The Mystery of Matter: Marie Curie” (PBS/Middlemarch) and “Law & Order: SVU.”  Mr. Blanchard holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA from Brown University/ Trinity Rep.

Billy EuGene Jones will play Othello. Broadway: The Mountaintop, Passing Strange, Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, A Raisin in the Sun. Off-Broadway: In the Footprint/The Battle Over Atlantic Yards (The Civilians), Three Sisters, Waiting for Godot (Classical Theatre of Harlem). Regional: The Good Negro (The Goodman Theatre), Stickfly (Arena Stage/Huntington Theatre), Death of a Salesman, Richard II, Breath, Boom! (Yale Repertory Theatre), The Wild Duck (Great Lakes Theatre Festival), Guys and Dolls, Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well, Avenue X, My Children, My Africa!, The Collected Works of Billy The Kid (Dallas Theater Center), Spunk, (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Jitney, A Christmas Carol (ALLIANCE THEATRE), Gee’s Bend, Blood Divided (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), Henry IV parts 1 and 2, Macbeth, Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Festival of Dallas). Billy is a Graduate of The Yale School of Drama.

Tickets and more information: http://www.sfstl.com/whats-on/othello-2012/

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