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.
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 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. His award-winning play, American Moor (published by Methuen Drama), that explores an African-American actor’s perspective through the metaphor of Shakespeare’s Othello, ran off-Broadway at Cherry Lane Theatre in the fall of 2019. There is an informal benefit reading of AMERICAN MOOR on Monday, October 12.
Franchelle Stewart Dorn has been an actress for more than 40 years having played leading roles at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C, Arena Stage, The American Conservatory Theater, Yale Repertory theater, Long Wharf, Great Lakes Theater Company, Cleveland Playhouse, Arizona State Theatre, Chautauqua Theatre, the Guthrie and at both The State, ZACH and Austin Shakespeare theaters in Austin. She spent the 2014 season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and spring 2015 off-Broadway in 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore.
Dorn has also been seen on Law and Order and in such films as Die Hard With a Vengeance, Chances Are and Raise the Titanic. She can be seen on one of PBS' longest-running series, "Literary Visions." She fondly remembers her role as "Dr. Rita Madison" on NBC's Another World. Dorn has been nominated for seven Helen Hayes Awards and has been the recipient of three. She has also won the Austin Critics' Circle Award for her performances in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Mrs. Warren's Profession and The Edge of Peace. She has more than 400 voice-overs and on-camera appearances to her credit. Dorn received her acting training at the Yale School of Drama. She has been named both an Academy Distinguished Teacher and Regents' Outstanding Teacher. She is also a past recipient of the College of Fine Arts' Outstanding Teacher award.
Jennifer Ikeda appeared in Red Bull’s 2008 production of Women Beware Women. Passionate about the Bard since high school, Jenny’s professional Shakespeare credits include: Lady Macbeth with the Public Theatre’s Mobile Unit; Lavinia in Titus Andronicus with Jay O. Sanders, Celia in AYLI with Brian Bedford at the Delacorte, the Jailer’s Daughter in Two Noble Kinsmen directed by Darko Tresnjak, Phoebe/Audrey/Old Adam/Charles the Wrestler in AYLI directed by Erica Schmidt—all with the Public Theatre; Ophelia in Hamlet with Alvin Epstein, a Roman Citizen in Coriolanus, both for TFANA; Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre DC and the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis; and Miranda at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Also, productions at Soho Rep, MTC, Ma-Yi, Clubbed Thumb, NAATCO, The Public, NYTW, TFANA, LCT, ART, Berkeley Rep, CTG, and La Jolla Playhouse, among others. TV/Film: "Blue Bloods", "New Amsterdam", “Blindspot", “Elementary", "Madam Secretary", “Happyish", "Person of Interest", “Smash", Advantageous, Killing Hasselhoff, etc. Other credits include David Michalek’s Portraits in Dramatic Time for LCF; SELECTED SHORTS for Symphony Space/NPR; dozens of Audiobooks including the acclaimed All Souls Trilogy. BFA, Juilliard.
Anchuli Felicia King is a playwright, screenwriter and multidisciplinary artist of Thai-Australian descent. As a writer, Felicia is interested in linguistic hybrids, digital cultures and issues of globalization. Her plays have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London), Studio Theatre (Washington D.C.), American Shakespeare Center (Staunton), Melbourne Theatre Company (Melbourne), Sydney Theatre Company, National Theatre of Parramatta and Belvoir Theatre (Sydney). As a multidisciplinary artist, Felicia has worked with a wide range of companies, including Punchdrunk, PlayCo, 3LD Arts & Technology Center, Roundabout Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, 59E59, Ars Nova, the Obie Awards, The Builders Association, Ensemble Studio Theater, NYTW, American Shakespeare Company and Red Bull Theater. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theater's Youngblood Group and Roundabout Theater's Space Jam Program. Formerly based in New York, Felicia continues to work internationally and is based between London, New York and her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Red Bull Theater will give a benefit reading King's play KEENE on Monday, October 19, 2020.
Peter Macon: Broadway: Yak in Drowning Crow (Manhattan Theatre Club); multiple roles in Twilight, Los Angeles (Lincoln Center Theater). Regional: Oedipus in Oedipus (Guthrie Theater), Malcolm in Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella (Yale Repertory Theatre), Aaron in Titus Andronicus (The Shakespeare Theatre), Phillip the Bastard in King John (Shakespeare & Company), Bill Cracker in Happy End (American Conservatory Theater), Witch and Donalbain in Macbeth (Berkeley Repertory Theatre). At Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird; William Henry Brown in The African Company Presents Richard III; Fortune, Soldier and Miner in Ruined; Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice; Second General and Second Quartet in Throne of Blood; Macbeth in Macbeth, Don Pedro in Much Ado about Nothing, Othello in Othello. Film/TV: Ashes, Friendship, Dexter, Law & Order, Without a Trace, Supernatural, The Shield, Chappelle's Show, Animated Tales of the World (HBO). Awards: Emmy Award winner, Outstanding Voiceover Narration; Herschel Williams award, Outstanding Achievement in Acting from Yale School of Drama. Education: MFA, Yale School of Drama; BFA, San Francisco Art Institute.
Alfredo Narciso is a native of Wisconsin (born in Milwaukee and raised in Eau Claire) is the progeny of a Brazilian mother and a Filipino father (a Brazilipino, if you will). He attended the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, where he majored in Theater Arts with a minor in Sociology. After testing the limits of the term 'super-senior', he graduated and headed to NYC. Shortly after arriving, he began working with Jim Simpson’s company (The Bats) down at the Flea Theater. After numerous productions there (including a trip to the Melbourne Fringe Festival in Australia) he branched out and has worked with many other companies including: Partial Comfort Productions, LAByrinth, Ensemble Studio Theater, The Actor’s Studio and New Neighborhood, all of which he is now a member. In addition to acting, he juggles, unicycles, is a skilled guitarist and produces films with Locus Focus Productions, which he co-founded.
Madeline Sayet is a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, where she was raised on a combination of traditional Mohegan stories and Shakespeare. Both of which have influenced her work as a stage director of new plays, classics, and opera. For her work she has been named a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, a NCAIED Native American 40 Under 40, a TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director's Fellow,, and a recipient of the White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama. She is the Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP). Within her field she has also been acknowledged as a 2019 Drama League Director in Residence, a member of the 2016 National Directors Fellowship Cohort, a Finalist for the TCG Alan Schneider Directing Award, and is currently a member of Long Wharf Theatre's inaugural artistic ensemble. Her directorial work has been described by critics as effervescent, enchanting, magical, insightful, and fearless. She received her BFA in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied under the Atlantic Theatre Company. She has a MA in Arts Politics & Post-Colonial Theory from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and a MA in Shakespeare & Creativity (with Distinction) from The Shakespeare Institute (Stratford Upon Avon, UK).
After finishing her studies at NYU, she received directing mentorship through a Van Lier Directing Fellowship at Second Stage Theatre, and social entrepreneurship training as part of the first cohort of National Arts Strategies' Creative Community Fellows (where she now serves as a mentor), before going on to develop a national and international artistic career. Her directing work has been seen at the Long Wharf Theatre, Perseverance Theatre (Alaska), Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Delaware Shakespeare Festival, South Dakota Shakespeare Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Festival, The Krannert Center (Illinois), Theatresquared (Arkansas), Penobscot Theatre (Maine), the Public Theater (NY), HERE Arts Center (NY), 59e59 Theaters (NY), Ars Nova (NY), Lark Play Development Center (NY), the Glimmerglass Festival (NY), as well as in Iceland and the UK.
Dawn Monique Williams, an Oakland, CA native, is Associate Artistic Director at Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. Previously she was Artistic Associate and a resident artist for six seasons at Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she will direct Bernhardt/Hamlet in 2020, having directed Merry Wives of Windsor there in 2017. Recent directing credits includes The Secretaries (Willamette Week’s Top 10 Portland Theatre Productions of 2018), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Piano Lesson, and By the Way, Meet Stark. She’s worked in theatre across the US including: HERE Arts Center, Profile Theatre (Portland), American Conservatory Theatre, Chautauqua Theater Company, African American Shakespeare Company. Her next project is the Lauren Gunderson (book), Kait Kerrigan (lyrics), and Brian Lowdermilk (music), musical Earthrise at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dawn will make her Aurora Theatre directing debut with Bull in a China Shop this fall. Her awards include a Princess Grace Theatre Fellowship, a TCG Leadership U Residency Grant, the Killian Directing Fellowship at OSF, a Drama League Directing Fellowship, and she was featured in Theatre Bay Area magazine as one to “Keep an Eye On.” She holds an MA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Directing. Dawn is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.
Jessika D. Williams has performed in 6 seasons and over 30 roles at American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, where she is currently playing the title role in Othello. Also at ASC, she has played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing; Rumor, Archbishop and Poins in Henry IV parts 1 and 2; Jacques in As You Like It, Margaret in Richard III, Viola in Twelfth Night, Goneril in King Lear, Gertrude in Hamlet, and Morocco in The Merchant of Venice. She has also performed the roles of Katherine in Taming of the Shrew at Great Lakes Shakespeare, Idaho Shakespeare and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals, Rosalind in As You Like It (California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda, CA), Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare Forum, New York, NY), Bacchae/Man in The Bacchae (National Theater of Scotland, UK tour and Lincoln Center, New York, NY), St Monica in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Headlong/Almeida Theater, London, UK), and Faith in Wig Out (Royal Court, London, UK). She has appeared on film and TV in "Taggart" (Scottish TV), "Dr. Who" (BBC), and The Descent 2 (Celador Films). Jessika graduated from high school at Interlochen Arts Academy and earned a BA in Theatre from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.