The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2430  Wednesday, 24 October 2001

From:           Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 23 Oct 2001 15:37:51 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Othello in South Carolina

The South Carolina Shakespeare Company has one more performance of its
Othello scheduled for this coming Friday evening in Newberry, SC. I've
seen its staging two weekends ago and have been thinking about it since.

The company has chosen to set the play in New Orleans, casting most of
the characters as police officers, Othello as a captain, Iago as a
lieutenant, Cassio as another officer, etc. Several roles besides
Othello, including Cassio, are performed by African American actors.
This has suggested to me a different sense of Othello's competitiveness
with Cassio (If Desdemona chooses Othello, what black man wouldn't she
choose? The question is sexist, but then so, here, is Othello.)

I have been most pondering the casting of Othello with Greg Leevy, a
local actor. I have previously seen him in Tartuffe, where his slow burn
was central to his role. His physical presence seems more generally
suited to comedy, more Ralph Kramden than a virile Laurence Fishburne.
This casting choice strikes me as strategic, making it hard to take
Othello seriously even while presenting a wholly believable performance.
As one of my acquaintances put it, this Othello was stupid.

I take this Othello's stupidity as the company's interpretive decision,
and I recommend seeing the play for anyone in South Carolina. Usually, I
think of Othello with more sympathy than I did after this performance. I
am interested in knowing of other performances of Othello in which
casting choices may have had a similar effect.

Jack Heller

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