Interview: Eboni Bell Darcy of OTHELLO THE REMIX at Stages Houston

Reinventing Shakespeare through a hip-hop lens!

By: May. 05, 2024
Interview: Eboni Bell Darcy of OTHELLO THE REMIX at Stages Houston
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

STAGES HOUSTON has recently unleashed one of the most wildly inventive shows of the year, OTHELLO THE REMIX. It runs through June 9th at their complex and is a rap opera developed by the Q Brothers. It isn’t traditional Shakespeare by any means, and it is helmed by associate artistic director Eboni Bell Darcy. Broadway World writer Brett Cullum got a chance to speak with Eboni about the show, what it means, and how it impacts Stages in their mission to create the most diverse theater audience in Houston. 

Brett Cullum: Okay, Eboni, tell me a little bit about Othello the Remix. I know I've read about the original production, but this is pretty daring for STAGES.

Eboni Bell Darcy: Yeah, you think? It is different. Right? Because it's basically a rap opera. It is Shakespeare's classic tragedy. Othello Retold through a hip-hop lens and so it is constant beats being spun by DJ who is present the entire time. The rhyme is done consistently on top of that rhythm, just like all of Shakespeare's work was in that iambic pentameter. So what's interesting about this show is that it centers on the idea of a “Jay Z” type artist who has come from nothing and made his way to something and has surrounded himself with a group of artists that are on tour together, one of which being Iago, who we know, is one of Shakespeare's most manipulative and juicy villains. He reminds us of "Eminem." So then, we have this battle of jealousy that takes place in the center. There is the character of Cassio, who reminds us of a “Will Smith”-type bubble gum rapper. We have another character in the show who plays Rodrigo and Loco Vito, and he's gonna remind us a little bit of Fat Joe and give us a little bit of those vibes.

What has been so interesting for me is that this hip-hop medium translates almost seamlessly into Shakespeare and vice versa because, ultimately, these artists, Shakespeare and rappers, were doing the same thing. Shakespeare was creating shows that were there to speak truth to power and do a little bit of satire. There was to create language and words that were helping his rhyme to happen, but also that the common people could pick up on and talk about certain things. And this is the exact same thing that rappers are doing in this day and age. And they have been doing it for 50 years because we're at the 50th year anniversary of rap. They have been speaking truth to power with rhyme and rhythm. They have been changing language, creating language, and developing musicality in poetry that has helped us understand a cultural movement. That has been really interesting. To see how easily the two forms blend and how easily the stories and the characters blend over.

Something interesting about this show is there are no female characters. The four men play all the characters in the show, including the women, except for Desdemona. She never appears and is only heard over a sound system. That has been really challenging for me as a female director and the associate artistic director of Stages. When this show was placed in the season, it was very important to me, as we were casting to balance out that all-male cast with a female creative team 

It is about having violence visited upon them at the hands of these men, and they don't have a voice. They are not present in the show, right? So, in order to balance that out, our creative team is full of women. What was confusing in the piece for me was that those women were not there. 

Brett Cullum: I would just be frightened as a director. How the heck did you cast this? What were auditions like?

Eboni Bell Darcy: We put out a call. I did not know who was gonna show up cause who raps? Who does that? And it's like there were thirty people in Houston that showed up, and they were all about it. They were ready. The young man who we cast as Othello. He came in with his own original rap for auditions, which was incredible. 

He's been in a lot of shows at Stages, Camryn Nunley. He's gonna be playing Othello and then the other folks in the show. We have two fresh graduates, Houston natives who are gonna be here for the first time on the Stages stage. They are Gabriel Mullen and Issac Lopez.  

We have Kory Laquess Pullam, who's playing Casio, who is back home in Houston from being in Minneapolis as an actor for seven years. So we're getting him for the first time, but he's a pro. So it has been really, really incredible. And I think for me, when I step into a director's room, or when I step into the director's role, and we have that first rehearsal. Those first two rehearsals are very important in that we're setting how we're gonna treat each other and our expectations of how we're going to perpetuate inclusion. And in those conversations, we really all were on the same page about the misogyny present in the script, the fact that the women were missing, and how this was a show about how men and jealousy weave so tightly until violence is done. 

We set the show in the early 2000s. We're in 2003, 2004 when you come to OTHELLO THE REMIX because we didn't think it fit in a post “Me Too” cultural landscape.

Brett Culum: How do you think this all fits into Stages? As far as I know, this is the company’s first rap opera. 

Eboni Bell Darcy: STAGES has been doing meaningful work to really bring diverse audiences through our doors. And I think it's incredibly important that we create access points for young folks to see themselves in the arts because they will be the next stewards of our great industry. This allows maybe young folks, maybe folks who didn't know that there was something at the theater for them to be able to have an access point in and to see something that they really enjoy, that has this theatrical and dramatic life that connects to something that we're familiar with, like Shakespeare in the theater world.

And then maybe they come back, and they see something else that wasn't rap. We have been cultivating new audiences and bringing people along to things they may have never seen on the stage before. We're gonna continue down that path and ensure that we have something that speaks to the variety of tastes in the wealth of diversity here in Houston.

Brett Cullum: Which stage at STAGES are you in for this production? 

Eboni Bell Darcy: We're in the round, so we're in the Smith, the one with purple chairs. The set is gonna have a trick to it that no one's ever seen at Stages before, and just like the rap, it's gonna be magical. I'm not gonna give it away. You'll have to come to see it.

Remember, I mentioned earlier that we have an on-stage DJ the entire time? I do have to plug that our on-site DJ is going to be onstage. 

Brett Cullum: That sounds great. I am so excited. I didn't know much about this production, so I had to research before talking to you. When I saw the Q Brothers and saw how it originated. I was excited and realized there was none of the original text in there. They adapted it. Is that right?

Eboni Bell Darcy: You mean the lines from Othello, the original? Oh, yeah, it's all new. It's it's none of it's like the original. It's all rap. It's the same story, but they've changed every single line. 

Brett Cullum: Well, I can not wait to see you bring this version of OTHELLO to life! I am already hearing folks who have seen previews say that they were dazzled.


To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor