Charles, Chastin & More Join Hoffman And Ortiz For Public Theater's OTHELLO Beginning 9/12 At Skirball Center

By: Jul. 30, 2009
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The Public Theater (Artistic Director Oskar Eustis; Executive Director Andrew D. Hamingson) announced complete casting today for the first production of the 2009-2010 Season, OTHELLO, directed by Peter Sellars. This highly-anticipated contemporary production, featuring the previously announced John Ortiz as Othello and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Iago, will play for 23 performances only, beginning on Saturday, September 12 at NYU Skirball Center. Single tickets go on-sale on Monday, August 3.

Presented by The Public Theater and LAByrinth Theater Company in association with Wiener Festwochen, Vienna and Schauspielhaus Bochum and by special arrangement with NYU Skirball Center, OTHELLO will run through Sunday, October 4 with an official press opening on Sunday, September 27.

The complete cast for OTHELLO will feature Julian Acosta as Roderigo; Gaius Charles as Duke/Lodovico; Jessica Chastain as Desdemona; Liza Colon-Zayas as Emilia; Saidah Arrika Ekulona as Montano/Bianca; Philip Seymour Hoffman as Iago; LeRoy McClain as Cassio; and John Ortiz as Othello.

"Peter Sellars is a brilliant, breath-taking, audacious director and his encounter with Othello has produced an absolutely unique and riveting production," said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. "It continues one of The Public's great traditions, that of making Shakespeare our contemporary and using his extraordinary work to throw light on our specific historical moment."

The Public opens its fall season with OTHELLO, Shakespeare's most passionate and spiritually-charged creation. Peter Sellars, renowned for tearing through boundaries with his visionary stagings of the classics, explores the new prospects for hope in 21st-century America giving the play a modern resonance that raises a mirror to our culture's racial struggles and achievements, both darkened and illuminated by overwhelming personal and political yearning.

OTHELLO will feature scenic design by Gregor Holzinger; costume design by Mimi O'Donnell; lighting design by James F. Ingalls; and original music and sound design by Mark Grey.

PETER SELLARS (Director) is one of the leading theater, opera, and festival directors in the world today. He is particularly well-known for his re-envisioning of classics, such as works by Mozart, Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and the 16th-century Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu, to engage contemporary social and political issues. Sellars is also the driving force in the creation of new works, such as John Adams' and Alice Goodman's Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, and with poet/librettist June Jordan, Adams' I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky. At 26, he was made Director of the American National Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He received the MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the Erasmus Prize for his contributions to European culture. Recent projects include John Adams' Doctor Atomic; Tan Dun's composition Peony Pavilion; a new version of Stravinsky's The Story of a Soldier; the premiere production of Kaija Saariaho's opera L'amour de loin; and For an End to the Judgment of God / Kissing God Goodbye, a production of Antonin Artaud's radio play with the poetry of the late June Jordan staged as a United States Department of War press conference.

JULIAN ACOSTA (Roderigo)'s recent theater credits include Penalties and Interest (The Public/LAByrinth), Massacre (Sing to Your Children) (The Public/LAByrinth), Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown Theatre Festival), and Anna in the Tropics (South Coast Repertory Theater). He received a Los Angeles Critics' Circle Award nomination for his performance in Lovers and Executioners at South Coast Repertory Theater.

Gaius Charles (Duke/Lodovico) is best known for his role as "Smash" on NBC's "Friday Night Lights." His theater credits include Broke-Ology, Spunk, Candide, The Wild Party, and his one-man show Meet Me In Iraq. He appears in the films Toe to Toe, The Messenger, and Bone Deep.

JESSICA CHASTAIN (Desdemona) most recently appeared in New York in Richard Nelson's Rodney's Wife at Playwrights Horizons. Her TV and film credits include the miniseries "Blackbeard", the film Jolene, and roles on "Trial By Jury," "Veronica Mars," and "ER." She will appear in Al Pacino's upcoming film Salomaybe?, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, and John Madden's The Debt.

Liza Colon-Zayas (Emilia) appeared at The Public in The Little Flower of East Orange and in LAByrinth's A View from 151st Street. A LAByrinth company member since 1992, her credits with the company include In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, Our Lady of 121st Street, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, all written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. She received a Lucille Lortel nomination for her performance in Lisa Loomer's Living Out, directed by Jo Bonney.

Saidah Arrika Ekulona (Montano/Bianca) recently played Mama Nadi in the Manhattan Theater Club production of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined. Her theater credits include Well on Broadway, Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare in the Park, The Thugs at Soho Rep, Fabulation at Playwrights Horizons, and A Streetcar Named Desire at New York Theatre Workshop.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Iago) has appeared at The Public in The Seagull and The Skriker; his directing credits with The Public and LAByrinth include Our Lady of 121st Street (Lortel nomination), The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and The Little Flower of East Orange. An Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning actor, his numerous film credits include Doubt, Charlie Wilson's War, Capote, Almost Famous, and The Big Lebowski. His Broadway credits include Long Day's Journey Into Night and True West. A member of the LAByrinth Theater Company since 1995, he most recently appeared onstage in Bob Glaudini's Jack Goes Boating; he will direct and star in a film version of the play in 2011.

LeRoy McClain (Cassio) most recently appeared at The Public in Tracey Scott Wilson's The Good Negro. His New York theater credits include The History Boys and Cymbeline on Broadway; Oroonoko at Theater for a New Audience; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo; Huck & Holden; and In Search of Stanley Hammer.

John Ortiz (Othello) last appeared at The Public in Bob Glaudini's Jack Goes Boating. A co-founder of LAByrinth Theater Company, his roles with LAByrinth include School of the Americas, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Guinea Pig Solo, Jesus Hopped the A Train, and Where's My Money?. He won an OBIE for References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot at The Public and appeared on Broadway in Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna in the Tropics.

THE PUBLIC THEATER (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Andrew D. Hamingson, Executive Director) was founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 and is now one of the nation's preeminent cultural institutions, producing new plays, musicals, and productions of classics at its downtown and at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The Public's mandate to create a theater for all New Yorkers continues to this day onstage and through extensive outreach and education programs. Each year, over 250,000 people attend Public Theater-related productions and events at six downtown stages, including Joe's Pub, and Shakespeare in the Park. The Public has won 42 Tony Awards, 149 Obies, 40 Drama Desk Awards and four Pulitzer Prizes. The Public has brought 52 shows to Broadway, including Sticks and Bones; That Championship Season; A Chorus Line; The Pirates of Penzance; The Tempest; Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk; On the Town; The Ride Down Mt. Morgan; Topdog/Underdog; Elaine Stritch at Liberty; Take Me Out; Caroline, or Change; Well; Passing Strange; and, most recently, the current Tony Award-winning revival of Hair.