Drake University Theatre Department presents “The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice” by William Shakespeare as its first online mainstage production.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Drake Theatre has taken a unique approach to this show. Actors will perform in the empty Performing Arts Hall while being recorded and have a full production video posted on the DrakeUTheatre YouTube channel.
“Othello” follows the story of Othello and Desdemona who begin the show as lovers, but are slowly turned against each other by the manipulative Iago who seeks revenge on those who he believes have wronged him.
Director Michael Rothmayer said he felt that this Shakespearean piece was very timely because of the themes of racism and ignorance within the show.
“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 plays the role of Desdemona. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Farrell emphasized how much the cast has learned throughout the rehearsal process.
“With everything going on around us, our cast has been able to come together and 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.”
The production’s technical designers have built a full-scale set that incorporates COVID-19 safety protocols that protect performers from potential exposure to the virus.
“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 every actor is placed in has created a different approach on how actors are able to interact with each other in the show. Tate Clemen, playing the role of Iago, said the circumstances presented a unique challenge for the cast.
“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… this show has pushed me in that regard, amongst many others.”
Shiloh Boston, who portrays the title role of Othello, is proud of what he and his fellow cast and crew members have accomplished despite the odds.
“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 at youtube.com/drakeutheatre from Nov. 19 through Dec. 3.