‘Othello’ Tackles Gender and Race


Courtesy Haley Pulsipher

“When holding a weapon, it’s important to always hold it towards your vital organs,” Adriana Lemke, fight choreographer for the upcoming production of “Othello” jokes. It’s the week before performances begin, and school isn’t officially in session, but the cast and crew of “Othello” are hard at work.

They have begun rehearsing in the performance space for the show—a small black box located in the Performing Arts Building on campus. The space calls for intimacy and allows the audience to experience the narrative in close proximity.

During this rehearsal, actors Autumn Archuleta and Bakir Mehinovic, playing Cassio and Roderigo respectively, find their places, each wielding their rehearsal weapons. This is more than just understanding where to move and how to hold a knife—it’s also being able to connect and engage your partner while still telling the story. “Let’s try walking through it,” Lemke instructs.

“Othello,” Shakespeare’s play chronicling the life of the Moor of Venice, tells a classic tale of vengeance and violence, and the danger posed by a few well-placed lies. Othello, a revered military man, has traveled to Cyprus with his wife Desdemona and close friend Iago. He soon finds himself the target for Iago’s deceit and jealousy, as Iago begins spinning lies concerning Desdemona’s fidelity. Torn between his loyalty to Iago and his love for his wife, Othello must decide whom he truly believes.

While many are familiar with “Othello” from English classes, this production brings some new elements to the table. The performance is directed by Haley Pulsipher, a senior in the U’s Actor Training Program. Her work marks “Othello” as the first undergraduate student directed production at the University. Unlike the more traditional productions of Shakespeare that use all-male casting, “Othello” has gender-swapped many of the roles, which allows the performance to comment on gender as well as race. One of these roles is the tilte role of the Moor, brought to life by McKenna Jensen, an ATP senior whose credits include “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “The Threepenny Opera.” Classmates Nate Yerke and Chloe Jensen join her in the roles of Iago and Desdemona respectively.

“Othello” opens January 13th and runs through the 16th, with a matinee on Saturday the 14th in the Performing Arts Building 202. Tickets are available for free, but seating for many of the performances is limited. Information regarding the production and ticket availability can be found on their Facebook page, and tickets can be reserved at the following site: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/othello-tickets-30881050052?aff=es2.

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