Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Which Imitates What?

Yesterday was our Theatre’s first rehearsal for Othello, where the non-Production staff of the Folger gets to learn what the upcoming production’s concept, design, and themes will look like.

Set Rendering for OTHELLO by designer Tony Cisek (c).

We can often see more of ourselves in our history than in a reflection of our present. This will not be a “modern-setting” Shakespeare where the men wear business suits and the women wear heels. Rather, the play will be set during the crusades of Richard the Lionheart. Historically, Cyprus was taken by the Christians by 1203, and would have provided a good resting point for an idle and restless militia waiting for their next assignment. Instead of looking at the play through a lens of racial prejudice, Richmond is more interested in the religious divisions between Christians and Muslims then and – in a way – how those divisions look now.

I think it is incredibly interesting when art imitates life, but the “mirror up to nature” does not have to be an actual reflective surface showing us ourselves exactly – rather, this mirror can be a curvy, colorful fun-house mirror that shows us ourselves as we could be, or our perceptions in a different way.

UPDATE! Folger Theatre will be keeping a production blog of the behind-the-scenes process, helmed by actor Louis Butelli (playing Roderigo). Check it out HERE!

What sort of themes are you able to discuss with your class through Shakespeare? Which plays are the richest for this kind of discussion? Tell us in the comments!

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