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An Informal Benefit Reading
AMERICAN MOOR

by KEITH HAMILTON COBB
LIVESTREAM RECORDING
This event premiered LIVE on Monday, October 12, 2020.
The recording was available until 7:00 PM EDT on Friday, October 16.
 
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BULL SESSION | AMERICAN MOOR

LIVESTREAM RECORDING

An interactive discussion of American Moor and its themes, recorded Thursday, October 15, 2020.

All of our Fall 2020 programs are free. But this is only possible through the support of people like you. Please make a tax-deductible donation today to support Red Bull and invest in the vitality of classical theater for a contemporary audience. We're committed to continuing connection during this historic time. Your support will help make that possible.

Keith Hamilton Cobb’s AMERICAN MOOR is the award-winning, tour-de-force new play that takes audiences behind-the-scenes and into the audition room as an African-American actor responds to the demands of a white director presuming to better understand Shakespeare’s iconic black character, Othello.

 

“Fascinating. The thick racial tension of the premise predominates. It’s about performing Othello but also, in a way, about being Othello: a black man trying to find a path to excellence in a society anxious to keep him in his place.” — The New York Times

 

“Keith Hamilton Cobb delivers a compelling turn in this deeply felt meditation on Shakespeare and racism.” — AM New York

 

A passionate and poetic exploration, AMERICAN MOOR is an essential look at the experience and perspective of black men in America while challenging the capacity of the American theatre to make all people fully visible and embraced. We were thrilled to bring a full-production of Cobb’s play to Off-Broadway audiences in the Fall of 2019 at the Cherry Lane Theater. 

 

For this special benefit occasion, the original Off-Broadway cast, Keith Hamilton Cobb and actor Josh Tyson, will offer an informal reading of his play from their homes. Ayana Workman will read stage directions. They will bring Cobb's text to life for a whole new audience, simply and without ornamentation.

This event will premiered LIVE at 7:30 PM EDT on Monday, October 12. A recording of the livestream was available until 7:00 PM EDT on Friday, October 16 – then it disappeared.

 

All of our Fall 2020 programs are free. But this is only possible through the support of people like you. Please make a tax-deductible donation today to support Red Bull and invest in the vitality of classical theater for a contemporary audience. We're committed to continuing connection during this historic time. Your support will help make that possible.

THE CAST

Red Bull Theater wishes to express its gratitude to the Performers’ Unions: ACTORS’ EQUITY ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN GUILD OF MUSICAL ARTISTS, AMERICAN GUILD OF VARIETY ARTISTS, and SAG-AFTRA through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear in this program.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT

KEITH HAMILTON COBB is an actor who has been drawn mostly to the stage in his working life, but is also recognized for several unique character portrayals he has created for television. He has appeared in classical and contemporary roles on regional stages country-wide. He is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in acting. You can learn more about any and all of his work at AmericanMoor.com or at keithhamiltoncobb.com, on Facebook  @KeithHamiltonCobb,  and on Twitter and Instagram @KeithHamCobb 

ABOUT THE PLAY

Shakespeare’s Othello is often imagined as the tragedy of an interracial couple destroyed by jealousy, set against the background of Venetian geopolitics. Why should audiences today want to see such a story staged? What can we learn from such a tale? It is tempting to say that the play teaches us about our common humanity, our sad mistakes and fallibility. But such a reading belies the implicit bias built into not only the play but also the institution of theatre itself: the racial singularity of the protagonist and, in many productions, the resulting isolation of the actor playing that role; the presumed whiteness of the theatre audience that the play is supposed to reach; the fact that the very name Shakespeare conveys authority and thus, under the guise of classical theatre, reproduces existing hierarchies that position racialized peoples’ life experiences as “unique” against the supposed universality of white humanity.

 

Keith Hamilton Cobb’s American Moor interrogates these assumptions by bringing his own story to bear on Shakespeare’s tragedy. This is the tale of a talented Black actor eager to exercise his craft. Yet time and again, he is asked to play Othello. He may not play Hamlet, he may not play Romeo, he may not play many of Shakespeare’s plum parts (including Titania, for gender and sexuality matter, too.) Yet when he gamely agrees to act the Venetian, he is repeatedly challenged by white directors. They tell him to sit; they tell him to stand; they say over and again that he is too angry—or not angry enough. Their comments are often offered with a smile, for they believe they are on the side of justice. But their suggestions consign the Black actor to represent neither the admiration Othello garners as a general nor the degradation he suffers as a Moor, neither his eloquence and strength of character nor his frustration and pain. The result is a caricature, a cardboard cutout of a character, one that remains palatable for a white audience.

 

What can we learn from American Moor? It is tempting to believe we are above the fray, that we sympathize with Othello, with the Black actor playing that role, and with Cobb as the performer playing the actor playing that part. But the white director in the tale sits in the auditorium, the only other speaking character in the play—and a stand-in for the audience. Black and other BIPOC playgoers may well identify with the actor onstage, but white spectators, the play insists, must ask how they can undo their own racialized gaze. Keith Hamilton Cobb shares his own story, a universal tale about what it means to never fit the roles we are assigned. The play skillfully asks us to see ourselves in that story, to call up our own memories of being marginalized or misunderstood. At the same time, it asks for our engaged introspection, to consider how we participate against our own wills and explicit intentions in a system of racialized violence whose effects are all the more pressing and evident at this crucial juncture in time.

 

Erika T. Lin | Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance | The Graduate Center, CUNY

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Keith Hamilton Cobb’s play AMERICAN MOOR has been published by Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama. 

This edition features an introduction by Professor Kim F. Hall, Barnard College.

Get your copy today.

This event is part of a multi-part initiative of Red Bull Theater to provide an engaging and educational experience for all who are interested in Shakespeare’s Othello and the world in which we live. GET DETAILS

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