Over the course of four Wednesday afternoons in October 2020, Red Bull Theater brought together a group of BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) theater artists to read and discuss Shakespeare’s Othello with celebrated Shakespeare scholar, AYANNA THOMPSON. This series of salon discussions provided an opportunity for our entire community to explore Othello with BIPOC voices in our current historic moment. As a theater company devoted to revitalizing the classics with a particular focus on Shakespeare and his Jacobean contemporaries, we were thrilled to provide an occasion and space for a communal online experience.
Each week artists and scholars Keith Hamilton Cobb, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Jennifer Ikeda, Anchuli Felicia King, Peter Macon, Alfredo Narciso, DeAris Rhymes, Madeline Sayet, Jessika D. Williams, and Dawn Monique Williams read a portion of Shakespeare’s play and discussed its intersections with 2020.
DOWNLOAD seminar playing text.
AYANNA THOMPSON’s introduction to the current Arden Shakespeare edition of Othello attends to the play's different meanings throughout history, while articulating the historical context in which Othello was created. Her research pays particular attention to Shakespeare's source materials and the evidence about early modern constructions of racial and religious difference. It also explores the life of the play in different historical moments, demonstrating how meanings and performances develop, accrue, and metamorphose over time.
ABOUT THE SCHOLARS
Ayanna Thompson is Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) and Professor of English at Arizona State University. She is the author of Blackface (forthcoming Bloomsbury, 2021), Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars (Arden Bloomsbury, 2018), Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centred Approach, co-authored with Laura Turchi (Arden Bloomsbury, 2016), Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2011), and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (Routledge, 2008). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 Othello (Arden, 2016), and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race (forthcoming Cambridge University Press, 2021), Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave, 2010), and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (Routledge, 2006). She is currently collaborating with Curtis Perry on the Arden4 edition of Titus Andronicus. She was the 2018-19 President of the Shakespeare Association of America, and served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars. She was one of Phi Beta Kappa’s Visiting Scholars for 2017-2018.
De'Aris Rhymes (Q&A Moderator) is a Ph.D. student in English Literature and an Interdisciplinary Enrichment Fellow at Arizona State University. As a Black feminist, both in practice and in theory, De'Aris studies at the intersection of race and gender in early modern and early African American literature, with special interests in John Milton, Shakespeare, and antebellum African American women writers.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Keith Hamilton Cobb is an actor and a playwright who