California Shakespeare Theater Presents Shakespeare’s Othello Directed By Eric Ting In His Cal Shakes Debut
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Pictured: (seated L to R) Liz Sklar as Desdemona, Aldo Billingslea as Othello, and Elizabeth Carter as the Duke; (standing L to R) James Carpenter as Iago and Lance Gardner as Cassio in California Shakespeare Theater’s production of OTHELLO, directed by Eric Ting; photo by Alessandra Mello
Bruns Amphitheater to be transformed into a three-quarter thrust stage, with limited seats available on stage
Berkeley, CA – California Shakespeare Theater’s 25th anniversary season at the Bruns Amphitheater concludes with Artistic Director Eric Ting’s company debut with Shakespeare’s Othello, from September 14 through October 9. For tickets and information, contact the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666 or visit www.calshakes.org
For the first time in its 25-year history at the Bruns, the stage of the Amphitheater will be transformed into a three-quarter thrust stage, with limited onstage seating added to place the audiences on three sides of the action.
“Othello should make us uncomfortable,” says director Eric Ting. “Part of what that means is removing us from what is familiar. We’re stripping away a lot of the things that create distance between the audience and the actors, creating a space where the actors can be very close to us. The audience watching the play will see the audience watching the play, and we become the backdrop for this urgent tale of two marriages, of the longing to belong and the fear of the other, of men’s cruelty to women and the conditions that divide us from each other.”
He continues, “The question for me when thinking about a work is always, ‘Why now?’ In the case of Othello, I came to realize that at its core it’s a story about being other in society. Iago calls himself an ‘honest man;’ what are the conditions under which he tips into hatred, into villainy? There isn’t a single character in this play that is free of that potential to do great harm. Our goal is to make sure every character represented on stage is as complicated as any person in our audience.”
“It’s easy to say that Iago is solely responsible for the actions of Othello. Some part of us needs to believe that there’s this malevolence, this psychopathy, this irresistible force that compels a decent man to commit murder. But the more complicated choice is to ask: what if the potential were there all along? What would drive a human being to such an edge and send them over it?”
The cast for Othello features Aldo Billingslea (August Wilson’s Fences, Spunk, Lady Windermere’s Fan) in the title role; Liz Sklar (Anne Boleyn, MTC; The Tempest, Cal Shakes) as his loving, ultimately tragic wife, Desdemona; James Carpenter (Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, title role in Titus Andronicus) as the “honest man” Iago; and Julie Eccles (Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Candida) as his wife, Emilia. Others in the cast include Matthew Baldiga (You Never Can Tell) as Desdemona’s former suitor, Roderigo; Elizabeth Carter (You Never Can Tell) as the courtesan Bianca and the Duke; Lance Gardner (You Never Can Tell, Fences, Much Ado About Nothing) as Othello’s Lieutenant Cassio; and Michael Storm (On Clover Road, SF Playhouse) as Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, and others.
The creative team for Othello includes set designer Nina Ball, whose previous designs for Cal Shakes include Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; costume designer Alexae Visel making her Cal Shakes debut, whose work has been seen at The Public Theater, Yale Rep, Magic Theatre, and SF Shakes; lighting designer Russell Champa, designer of such Cal Shakes productions as A Winter’s Tale, Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, and Man and Superman; sound designer Brendan Aanes, winner of a TBA Award for his work on TheatreWorks Triangle, plus designs for A.C.T., MTC, Kansas City Rep, Aurora Theatre, and SF Playhouse, among others; fight choreographer Dave Maier, who has created combat moments for productions at Cal Shakes, Berkeley Rep, SF Opera, and A.C.T; and composer Olive Mitra, Bay Area musician, composer, and actor, who created the soundscape for Cal Shakes’ touring production of The Tempest, and recently worked with the San Francisco Symphony on their Sound Box series.
Director Eric Ting is an Obie Award-winning director and was appointed Artistic Director of California Shakespeare Theater in November of 2015. Deeply committed throughout his career to the development of new and diverse voices for the theater, Eric has directed plays (many of them world premieres) by Sam Hunter, Aditi Kapil, Kimber Lee, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Laura Jacqmin, Kenneth Lin, Kristoffer Diaz, Anna Deavere Smith, and others. He has also been recognized for his co-adaptation of Hemingway’s Old Man & the Sea and his controversial interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth set during the Vietnam War. His work has been seen at Manhattan Theatre Club, Soho Rep, the Public Theater, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens, Williamstown Theatre Festival, A.R.T., Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Hartford Stage, BAM Next Wave, Cincinnati Playhouse, and the Alliance Theatre; as well as internationally, including Singapore, France, Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Bali.
The theater will host two Civic Dialogues during the run of Othello; the first, “The Construction of Gender: The Impact of Toxic Masculinity in Society” will explore season-long representations of manhood, the construction of masculinity in our society, and ways in which we can create alternative forms of manhood that actively confront gender violence. This free event will be held at the Bruns Amphitheater at 4:30pm on Saturday, September 24, between the matinee and evening performances.
The second Civic Dialogue, “Othered in America: a Conversation on Xenophobia and Islamophobia in the U.S.” will take place in October 2016 at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland; date, time, and other details will be announced later.
Following the Main Stage run of Othello, the company will tour the production throughout the Bay Area as part of its All the Bay’s a Stage Tour; details including dates and locations will be announced later.
Single tickets for Othello range from $20 to $84, with special $25 tickets available for onstage seating at all performances. Discounts are also available for seniors, youth, students, military families, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Prices, dates, titles, and artists are subject to change. For information or to charge tickets by phone with VISA, MasterCard, or American Express, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666. Additional information and online ticketing are available at www.calshakes.org.
California Shakespeare Theater’s 2016 season is supported in part by the generosity of The Bernard Osher Foundation, the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, East Bay Community Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Corporate partners include BART, City National Bank, John Muir Health, Meyer Sound, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and San Francisco magazine.
Cal Shakes’ production of Othello is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and Arts Midwest. California Shakespeare Theater is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to participate in bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States. This is the 13th year of this national program, the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history. Other funders of our Student Discovery programming in schools and at our Theater include: The Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, and the Ida and William Rosenthal Foundation
Cal Shakes Community Tour of Othello following the Main Stage run is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation’s New California Arts Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts: Art Works.