Amanda Drinkall’s Desdemona(s)

Amanda Drinkall plays Desdemona in Othello, The Tragedy of the Moor of Venice, at the Court Theater in Chicago – and, as it happens, she’s also played Desdemona before with the Back Room Shakespeare Project. Amanda discusses the differences between the two productions and reveals why she continues to be drawn to the role; the appeal of approaching the text irreverently; the advantages of intimacy; further attempts to make #TheatreInTheSurround happen; the question of whether Desdemona is a victim; how we see her through Othello’s eyes; how Desdemona is like other Shakespeare heroines like Juliet and Viola; and the importance of grounding tragedy in fierce love. (Length 17:25) (PICTURED: Kelvin Roston, Jr. and Amanda Drinkall in the Court Theatre production of Othello, The Tragedy of the Moor of Venice, directed by Charles Newell and Gabrielle Randle-Bent. Photo by Michael Brosilow.)

Othello’s Powerful POV

Chicago’s Court Theatre is producing a powerful and intimate production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice, and they are absolutely leaning into the play’s full, proper title. Kelvin Roston Jr. (as Oedipus, left, and Othello, above) stars in the title role and discusses how he was brought in early in the process by directors Charles Newelland Gabrielle Randle-Bent, and shares fantastic insights about he approaches Shakespeare’s text; how it’s sometimes better to find physical alternatives to the text; the similarities between Shakespeare and August Wilson; how you can’t stage a vehicle without getting a good driver; the importance of specificity in language; the power of presenting an epic tragedy on a human scale; the valuable lesson that it’s not what or how the classics speak to us, but how and what we say to the classics; and a determination to make the phrase #TheatreInTheSurround happen. Now playing – and streaming! – until December 5, 2021; visit courttheatre.org for more information. (Length 20:34) 

‘Ma Rainey’s’ Band

August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is getting an amazing production right now at the Writers Theatre in Chicago [sic], directed by Ron OJ Parson and starring Tony-nominee Felicia P. Fields in the title role, and the four outstanding actors who play her musicians — David Alan Anderson as Toledo, Kelvin Roston, Jr. as Levee, A.C. Smith as Slow Drag, and Alfred H. Wilson as Cutler (pictured above, left to right) — sat down for a roundtable discussion about the roles they play; the extraordinary bond they’ve forged; comparisons to Shakespeare; dialogue as music and words turned into poetry; the familiarity of the characters; shout-outs to King Oliver and Buddy Bolden; strong communities; August Wilson’s incredible legacy, the shape of his ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, and his ability to turn innate speech into poetry and familiar characters into titans. A one an’ a two…y’all know what to do… (Length 22:01) Photos by Michael Brosilow. Courtesy of Writers Theatre.