Griot Theatre's OTHELLO Returns This Week!
Since co-founding Griot Theatre, Artistic Director Malik B. El-Amin has pushed the company's mission, finding not just roles but entire productions that could feature female artists, artists of color and artists with physical disabilities and using what some would call creative casting as an opportunity to redefine the classics and local theatre in general.
Now he's preparing for one of his and the company's most ambitious productions to date, taking a bold new approach to an already challenging theatrical classic. Griot Theatre is proud to present Othello, running September 15 to October 7 at The Actor's Company in Los Angeles.
Shakespeare's classic tale of love, jealousy, betrayal and revenge gets a new look as Griot sets the tragedy in an East Asian dystopian future. Further, the entire production will not only be comprised of people of color, but will also feature women in key roles, including the notorious villain Iago. The show's mission, much like the company's mission, is to look at theatre in a different light, exploring themes from a new perspective. While Othello has traditionally explored white and black relations, El-Amin feels there have been several voices left out, thus the nontraditional staging.
"In America, and Los Angeles in particular, the relationship between Blacks and Asians is unique and not frequently explored or understood," he said. "This production offers the team and our audiences a chance to dig in to those issues and tensions and see what we may discover. Also, we wanted to place the show in the future to explore what might be, rather than tether ourselves to what has already come to pass."
Such a philosophy has been a priority for El-Amin since he started his company in 2011. A black actor, writer and director, El-Amin also wears a cochlear implant to help him hear. When he started losing his hearing and saw how it limited him in his career, he began to focus more on providing more opportunities for others that were underrepresented. Through the company's many successes, including The Archer From Malis in 2016, El-Amin has been very hands on. The same is true with this production, which he will direct and take on the titular role.
"One of our aims is to make classical work accessible to modern audiences," he said. "With political dramas like House of Cards and Game of Thrones ever popular, Othello offers a familiar story where there is no daylight between the personal and the professional. Iago plots Othello's downfall to secure her own rise and settle a grudge. Several characters--Othello, Iago, Cassio, and Roderigo--aim to improve their positions in life only to be foiled by a certain recklessness brought about by their own passionate pursuits. In our current political climate, the professional has become personal. We pursue our goals with a certain passionate recklessness, and I think the play can be instructive as we find our way forward."