This fall, the Drake University Theatre Department will present its first virtual mainstage production of The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, actors will perform Othello in an empty Performing Arts Hall, and post video of the performance to the DrakeUTheatre YouTube channel. The performance recording will be accessible for a two-week period, November 19 through December 3, 2020.
Othello follows the story of Othello and Desdemona, who begin the show as lovers, but slowly turn against each other by the manipulative Iago who seeks revenge to those who he believes have wronged him.
Director Michael Rothmayer sees timeliness and relevance in this Shakespearean piece due to reoccurring themes of racism and ignorance within Othello.
“The overarching theme of this play revolves around characters making terrible decisions and sometimes doing terrible things because they are acting from a place of ignorance,” Rothmayer said. “The overt racism, the misogyny, the jealousy, and the hatred espoused are all driven by characters’ lack of understanding and anger at the fear that instills.”
Cat Farrell, who portrays Desdemona, appreciated how the cast was able to overcome countless unforeseen obstacles in order to produce Othello.
“With everything going on around us, our cast has been able to come together to produce a truly amazing piece of art,” Farrell said. “We have been able to adapt to the changes and create a story that anyone can enjoy.”
Technical designers were able to construct a full-scale set for this large production and have incorporated safety protocols to comply with COVID-19 guidelines for the performers.
“Each character will be isolated in a separate cubicle with walls on either side, a floor and a ceiling,” Rothmayer said. “With this isolation, we are hoping to deconstruct the play a bit by focusing on each character individually while also creating as safe an acting environment as we can for the cast and crew.”
The cubicles each actor staged in has reimagined a different approach on how actors are able to interact with each other in the show.
Playing the role of Iago, Tate Clemen admitted he struggled to adjust to the new challenges COVID-19 has presented.
“A major theme through this play is intimacy,” Clemen said. “How does one achieve those intimate moments while maintaining appropriate social distancing? From a personal standpoint, in performance, I achieve a lot through movement.”
Shiloh Boston, who portrays the protagonist and title role of Othello, cited his castmates enthusiasm for theatre as an attribute of Othello’s success.
“The passion for the show and the story in the room is palpable every single night, and that passion has made this production be not only a good one to watch but a good one to be a part of,” Boston said.
Othello will be available to watch on the DrakeUTheatre YouTube channel November 19 through December 3, 202 at https://www.youtube.com/user/DrakeUTheatre/videos.