A Moor, by James Northcote, 1826 (Portrait of Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play a Shakespearean role in Britain)
NOVEMBER 7 – 23, 2019
By William Shakespeare
Director Brian Richmond
With its disturbing portrait of a world infused with racial politics, misogynist social structures and backstabbing treachery, Shakespeare’s Othello feels like it’s been ripped from today’s headlines – not written over 400 years ago.
Two lovers come from very different worlds: Othello, a mighty General from a foreign land, and Desdemona, a beautiful Senator’s daughter. They marry, undeterred by the prejudices that surround them. But no sooner are their vows sealed than their love is put to the test, as bigotry, envy, and jealousy begin to pull them apart.
Playing on Othello’s insecurities as an outsider in a predominantly white society, the charming but envious Iago – an ensign and trusted advisor – stokes the flames of his commanding officer’s jealous nature, bringing both the lovers, and the world they live in, to the point of utter collapse. In its raw emotions and ruthless politics, Othello remains an ageless and poignant tragedy.
William Shakespeare was a renowned English poet, playwright, and actor born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. His birthday is most commonly celebrated on April 23rd, which is also believed to be the date he died in 1616.
Shakespeare’s vast collection of work includes 38 plays, 2 narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems. No original manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays are known to exist today. It is actually thanks to a group of actors from Shakespeare’s company that we have about half of the plays at all. They collected scripts for publication after Shakespeare died, preserving the plays. These writings were brought together in what is known as the First Folio, which contains 36 of his plays and none of his poetry.
Shakespeare’s legacy is as rich and diverse as his work, which has spawned countless adaptations across multiple genres and cultures, as well as an enduring presence in film. His writings have been compiled in various iterations of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which include all his plays, sonnets, and other poems. Over 400 years later, William Shakespeare continues to be one of the most important literary figures of the English language.
Brian received his training as an actor at Burnaby South High School, Vancouver’s Holiday Theatre, and at the École Lecoq in Paris. Changing his focus to direction and dramaturgy in the mid-1970s, he has since created over a hundred and fifty professional productions for most of the major theatres across Canada as well as theatres in Europe, the United States and Mexico. As dramaturge, he has nurtured many of the leading playwrights of his generation. As a teacher, he has taught for numerous institutions including McGill, Concordia, Simon Fraser, York, Waterloo and Toronto universities as well as the National Theatre School of Canada.
Brian is the Founding Artistic Director of Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre and has also served as Artistic Director for Montreal’s Playwrights Workshop, Thunder Bay’s Magnus Theatre, and Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille. A four-time nominee for Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Direction, Brian won this award for his 1988 production of Fire. He has also won Dora Awards for Outstanding Production (Fire, as well as Lillies, 1991). Brian is also the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Victoria’s Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre (BBRT). Founded in 2009, BBRT is a company that offers the audiences of Victoria and its visitors contemporary visions into the great works from the past, as well as offering early career professional theatre artists the opportunity to work alongside some of the leading theatre practitioners of the day.
Brian served as the Chair of the Department of Theatre from 2001-2008. During this time he directed ten productions for the department including; Frogs, Peer Gynt, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Fever, He Who Gets Slapped, Guys and Dolls, Tyrants, Wind in the Willows, Dark of the Moon and Romeo and Juliet.
Brian has received numerous senior artist grants for his creative work from the Canada, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec Arts Councils as well as from a broad range of Canadian foundations.
The portrait above is a 1826 painting by James Northcote of Ira Aldridge, a celebrated actor and the first black actor to perform a Shakespearean role in Britain. He was also the first black man to perform the role of Othello.
Ira Aldridge was the one of the most successful actors of the 19th century. A free man, Aldridge moved to England in the 1820s after facing racial prejudice in his home state of New York. He began playing smaller roles at theatres in Dublin and Edinburgh, but his first performance at Covent Garden as Othello was cancelled after only two performances.
When critics spewed racial vitriol at his performance, his defenders in the press condemned them, praising his performance as Othello and calling detractors guilty of the “unworthy prejudice” that “still lingers in the minds of weak persons.” Despite the challenges he faced in London, Aldridge continued to hone his craft and expand his repertoire, touring around the provinces. He played such roles as Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, Shylock, and Macbeth. Eventually, offers began to pour in from abroad, and Aldridge toured Europe. Audiences flocked to see the Aldridge perform. His name received top billet on posters from Switzerland to Russia, where he received numerous awards, including a knighthood in Germany. By the latter half of his career, Aldridge was the highest-paid and most decorated actor of his time. Aldridge was an amazing performer who captured the hearts of audiences across Europe, and transcended barriers for actors of color. We chose this incredible portrait to celebrate his legacy as an iconic Othello.
Hampson, Norma. “A Visit from Ira Aldridge”. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. 17 Jan 2014.
Lindfor, Bernth. Early African Entertainments Abroad: From the Hottentot Venus to Africa’s First Olympains. University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.
Charge by phone: 250-721-8000
or in person at the Phoenix Box Office
Friday & Saturday Evenings
All Seats $28
Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday Matinees
All Seats $26
All Seats $15
NEW! Student Rush Tickets
30 minutes before every show: $16
Saturday Matinees: $21
(with UVic Alumni ONECard)
Performed in the Chief Dan George Theatre
Cast & Creative
Director Brian Richmond
Choreographer/Fight Director Jacques Lemay
Set Designers Conor Farrell & Logan Swain
Costume Designer Emily Friesen
Lighting Designer Michael Whitfield
Music Director, Designer, Composer, & Arranger by Olivia Wheeler
Voice & Text Coach Michael Elliott
Stage Manager Emma Jo Conlin
Dialect Coach Iris MacGregor-Bannerman
Music & Sound Coach Brooke Maxwell
Assistant Lighting Designer Hina Nishioka & Harry Zhe Lin
Paul Cridge Gentleman, Ensemble
Sivert Das Clown, Senator, Ensemble
Georgia Duff Desdemona
Miriam Dumitra Musician, Ensemble
Maddy El Baroudi Ghost of Barbary, Ensemble
David Elliott Lodovico, Musician, Ensemble
Grace Fedorchuk Emilia, Musica
David Gardiner Ensemble
Aidan Guerreiro Gentleman, Ensemble
Carter Gulseth Ensemble
Daniel Handford Duke of Venice, Gentleman, Ensemble
Emily Hay Bianca, Ensemble
Sarah Hunsberger Brabantia, Gratiano, Ensemble
Esmé Laidlaw Musician, Ensemble
Justin Little Ensemble
Teddy MacRae Ensemble
Julie McGuire Musician, Ensemble
Tallas Munro Othello
Sophia Radford Ensemble
Una Rekic Michael Cassio
Dawson Rutledge Montano, Ensemble
Aaron Smail Roderigo
Branden Sugden Herald, Senator, Ensemble
Ciaran Volke Iago
Hugh Wilcox Ensemble
Preshow Lecture: Othello at the Globe
(recorded Friday, November 8 at 7pm)
with Dr. Will Tosh, Shakespeare’s Globe
Dr. Tosh is a Research Fellow from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. His lecture, Othello at the Globe, takes us back to 1600s London to discussion Shakespeare’s diverse first audiences might have responded to Othello. Dr. Tosh led the Indoor Performance Practice Project (2014-16), which examined playing in the candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe.
Listen to Dr. Tosh’s lecture now:
Scenes of violence and domestic abuse.
Suitable for ages 15+