VUTheatre performs ‘Othello’ with street art twist

Iago, left, played by Cole Carlin, is the deceitful and villainous ensign to Othello, an army general played by Cameron Williams (Phillip Franck/Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt University Theatre‘s production of Othello, one of Shakespeare’s most powerful dramas, will open Friday, Sept. 30, at Neely Auditorium.

The show will be performed at 8 p.m. Sept. 30, and Oct. 1, 6, 7 and 8. A Sunday matinee Oct. 2 is at 2 p.m.

“Our production is based around the concept of melding Italian Renaissance elements with contemporary street art in support of the idea that a culture clash is at the heart of the story,” said Terryl Hallquist, associate professor of theatre and director of the production.

The story revolves around Othello, the powerful general of the Venetian armies who is married to Desdemona, daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio. The interracial couple was married secretly before the start of the play.

Another major character is Iago, Othello’s ensign or standard-bearer, who is the classic malcontent. Iago perceives himself wronged by the system, as he is passed over for promotion by Othello, and weaves a web of deceit that results in tragedy. “Street art, as a form, is traditionally considered an illegal act,” Hallquist said. “[lquote]Iago shares many qualities of the street artist, practicing his deceptions in the dark and embracing anonymity[/lquote].”

Hallquist noted that current American homeland frictions reverberate in Othello. “The issues of racial tension, the clashing of cultures, the breakdown of civility in public discourse, nontraditional methods of election and advancement, gender inequality and misogyny present to an American audience an uncomfortable portrait, one drawn with the basest, most troubling aspects of itself,” she said.

Paul Carrol Binkley, a Fred Coe teaching artist, composed music and designed the sound for ‘Othello.’ (submitted image)

Paul Carrol Binkley, one of two Fred Coe artists-in-residence working on the production, has composed original music and designed the sound for Othello. Binkley, whose solo recordings have been featured on National Public Radio, has served as acoustic guitar specialist for a diverse group of artists, including Percy Sledge, Fifth Dimension, Lorrie Morgan and the Nashville Symphony. He has worked with many theater companies in cities such as Hollywood, California; Kansas City, Missouri; and Nashville.

David Ian Lee, a Fred Coe teaching artist, was the fight choreographer for ‘Othello.’

The other Coe teaching artist is David Ian Lee, who served as the production’s fight choreographer. As an actor, he has performed internationally and with renowned American regional theaters, including Utah Shakespeare, New York Classical Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Nashville Repertory Theatre. He is also a playwright and founding member of Pipeline Collective, which strives to “bring the best and the new and the undiscovered from larger markets to the places where we are.”

This is VUTheatre’s first production for the 2016–17 season. General admission for Othello is $10. Tickets are $7 for Vanderbilt graduate students and free for undergraduates with a Vanderbilt ID. Reserve tickets here or pick them up at Sarratt Box Office.