OTHELLO Kicks off 16-17 Season for Vanderbilt University Theatre
Melding Italian Renaissance elements with contemporary street art to signify a "clash of cultures," Vanderbilt University Theatre's production of Othello, one of Shakespeare's most powerful dramas and the first VUT production of the 2016-17 season, opens tonight at Neely Auditorium on the Nashville campus.
"Our production is based around the concept of melding Italian Renaissance elements with contemporary street art in support of the idea that a Culture Clash is at the heart of the story," said Terryl Hallquist, associate professor of theatre and director of the production.
The story revolves around Othello, the powerful general of the Venetian armies who is married to Desdemona, daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio. The interracial couple was married secretly before the start of the play.
Another major character is Iago, Othello's ensign or standard-bearer, who is the classic malcontent. Iago perceives himself wronged by the system, as he is passed over for promotion by Othello, and weaves a web of deceit that results in tragedy.
"Street art, as a form, is traditionally considered an illegal act," Hallquist said. "Iago shares many qualities of the street artist, practicing his deceptions in the dark and embracing anonymity."
Hallquist noted that current American homeland frictions reverberate in Othello. "The issues of racial tension, the clashing of cultures, the breakdown of civility in public discourse, non-traditional methods of election and advancement, gender inequality and misogyny present to an American audience an uncomfortable portrait, one drawn with the basest, most troubling aspects of itself," she said.
Paul Carrol Binkley, one of two Fred Coe artists-in-residence working on the production, has composed original music and designed the sound for Othello. Binkley, whose solo recordings have been featured on National Public Radio, has served as acoustic guitar specialist for a diverse group of artists, including Percy Sledge, Fifth Dimension, Lorrie Morgan and the Nashville Symphony. He has worked with many theatre companies in cities such as Hollywood, California; Kansas City, Missouri; and Nashville.
The other Coe teaching artist is David Ian Lee, who served as the production's fight choreographer. As an actor, he has performed internationally and with renowned American regional theatres including Utah Shakespeare, New York Classical Theatre, The Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Nashville Repertory Theatre. He is also a playwright and founding member of Pipeline Collective, which strives to "... bring the best and the new and the undiscovered from larger markets to the places where we are."
Othello will be performed at 8 p.m. September 30, October 1, 6, 7 and 8. There will also be a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. October 2. General admission for Othello is $10. Tickets are $7 for Vanderbilt graduate students and free for undergraduates with a Vanderbilt ID.