Utah Shakespearean: Othello

Poster of Desdemona and Othello
Previously we attended Cyrano de Bergerac and The Two Gentleman of Verona.

The Play

Our last play at the festival is William Shakespeare’s Othello. The play is a tragedy based on the short story Moor of Venice by Cinthio, written around 1603. The work revolves around four central characters: Othello (Jonathan Earl Peck), his wife Desdemona (Lindsey Wochley), his lieutenant Cassio (Justin Matthew Gordon), and his trusted advisor Iago (James Newcomb). Desdemona is secretly married to the black general Othello, which upsets Roderigo, a rich gentleman. Iago is upset with Othello for promoting the younger Cassio over him. When Roderigo tells Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, that she is married, Brabantio is upset with Othello. And so it goes until it reaches a tragic climax. Because of its varied themes — racism, love, jealousy and betrayal — the play remains relevant to the present day.

The Actors

Jonathan Earl Peck has played on Broadway in A Lion in Winter; Abduction from the Seraglio; and The Color of Justice. Off Broadway Shakespearean roles have been Julius Caesar; The Merchant of Venice; Othello; Richard III; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Hamlet. In television and film he has played in Cadillac Records; Law and Order; The West Wing; The Devil’s Own; American Deams; Here and Now; One Life to Live; Loving; Freedom Road; King; Devil Girl; and Someone Else’s America.

Lindsey Wochley has played in A Christmas Carol as Belle and The Merry Wives of Windsor as Anne Page. Her Hartt School productions include Measure for Measure (Isabella), Pericles (Marina), Hay Fever (Sorel), Three Sisters (Natalya), Picnic (Madge), The Laramie Project (Romaine Patterson), Scapin (Nerine), and the world premieres of Film Noir (Jessica) and Deflowering Waldo (Sissy).

Justin Matthew Gordon has appeared previously at the Festival in Coriolanus, Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical. His Shakespearean roles in other theaters have been in Twelfth Night; Richard II; Richard III; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Hamlet. He has appeared in We Were Soldiers and What’s Bugging Seth.

James Newcomb has appeared previously at the Festival in Coriolanus and King Lear. In other theaters his Shakespearean roles include Richard III, Oberon, Puck, Bolingbroke, Laertes, Touchstone, Feste, Dogberry, Benedick, Romeo, Grumio, Tranio, Cabiban, and Thersites.

The Theater

The Adams Shakespearean Theatre is patterned after drawings and research of sixteenth century Tudor stages. Experts say it is one of a few theaters that probably comes close to the design of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced. It is so authentic that the British Broadcasting Company filmed part of its Shakespeare series there.
East gate of the Adams Shakespearean Theatre
It is named for Grace Adams Tanner, a major benefactor of the Festival, and her parents, Thomas D. and Luella R. Adams. It seats 819, plus 66 gallery-bench or standing-room seats. I was told by theater staff that when the new theater is opened this old theater will be torn down. It would be too costly to retrofit a movable roof that can be opened and closed depending on the weather.

Back Home

We had not seen Othello before and for us it dragged a little during the first half. It livened up after the intermission and though the ending was tragic there was a lot to ponder about why it had to be that way. It seems that one person with a lot of lies can really deceive a great many people. I noticed in the plays we attended that there were several empty seats. I wonder if ticket sales are down slightly. Anyway, we enjoyed the show.

Jill and I visited some other interesting places on our trip to southern Utah and I will probably be blogging about those shortly.

Utah Shakespearean Festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Jill by the posters of all the plays.
This is our second day at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Yesterday we saw Cyrano de Bergerac. Today we attended a matinée of The Two Gentleman of Verona. We enjoyed the play and the dog appeared to be the biggest hit with the audience. We will be watching Othello this evening and I will probably report on the play tomorrow. We are enjoying the uncrowdedness of Cedar City and the clear skies. It is pleasant to walk around the campus with so many shade trees to cool our way.

The Play

The Two Gentleman of Verona is a free-spirited and engaging comedy. For anyone who has ever been in love, this youthful indulgence is replete with love-smitten (and confused) men, cunning (and disguised) beautiful maidens, and the most likable canine ever to grace the stage. Valentine (Justin Matthew Gordon) and Proteus (Matt Burke), the two gents in question, prove that Romeo is not the only lad in Verona to feel the raptures of love!
Matt Burke as Proteus and Lindsey Wochley as Julia

The Actors

Matt Burke is also playing Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew.  Previously at the festival he had roles in Twelfth Night, Coriolanus, King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Doctor Faustus. He will be featured in the upcoming HBO movie Recount.

Justin Matthew Gordon is also playing Cassio in  Othello. Previously at the festival he had a role in Coriolanus, Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical. He appeared in the movies: We Were Soldiers and What’s Bugging Seth.

The Theater

We watched the play in The Auditorium, completely renovated in 2004. It is the venue for matinées and kept us cool and in the shade on the hot summer afternoon. It is also used for performances that are “rained in” from the Adams Shakespearean Theatre. Fortunately the weather was clear yesterday for Cyrano de Bergerac. The theater seats 853. The Auditorium is nowhere near the same as being outdoors in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre. However, the acting was just as excellent and we enjoyed our first taste of Shakespeare this year.

Utah Shakespearean Festival: Cyrano de Bergerac

Jill with the executive director, R. Scott Phillips

The Festival

My wife and I are in Cedar City for two days for the Utah Shakespearean Festival. We were last here two years ago and before that it was a twenty years. Each time we have enjoyed ourselves immensely. With just a short 3 1/2 hour drive with not a rickety road anywhere we arrived in good spirits ready for theater. The plays take place on the campus of Southern Utah University that is located not far from five national parks. Skiing is 40 minutes away at Brian Head.

The Play

Cyrano de Bergerac, written by Edmond Rostand, is the play we watched tonight. We like to add one or two non-Shakespearean plays to our itinerary. Set in Paris in 1640 the play is about an expert swordsman, eloquent poet, and eligible bachelor. Cyrano (Brian Vaughn) shies away from wooing Roxane (Melinda Pfundstein) because his overly-large nose masks the beauty of his soul. Instead, he helps his bumbling young friend, Christian (Drew Shirley), court her by writing entrancing poetry for the young man to recite.
This is me with one of the ushers just as we were allowed in to be seated

The Actors

In real life Melinda is the wife of Brian. They both have performed at the Shakespearean many times over the years and have become a favorite of festival goers. The fact that as a married couple they are deeply in love will add another layer to this romantic and beautiful play. Brian and Melinda both attended Southern Utah University. In addition to their roles in Cyrano de Bergerac, Vaughn will be playing Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Pfundstein will play Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof. We plan on seeing The Two Gentlemen of Verona tomorrow afternoon.

The Theater

The top left photograph is Jill with R. Scott Phillips, the executive director of the festival. It was taken a few minutes before the play began in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, dedicated in 1977. It is patterned after drawings and research of sixteenth century Tudor stages. Experts say it is one of a few theaters that probably comes close to the design of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced. It is so authentic that the British Broadcasting Company filmed part of its Shakespeare series there. It is named for Grace Adams Tanner, a major benefactor of the Festival, and her parents, Thomas D. and Luella R. Adams. It seats 819, plus 66 gallery-bench or standing-room seats. Jill and I have always attended the festival in August on our anniversary. August in Utah is usually very hot but in the evening in Cedar City the temperature is just right. In this open air theater the atmosphere is perfect in more ways than one. With the excellent acting it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t know much about this play before tonight. It was spoken in rhyme which I do not normally like but this time it came off rather well because it was so clever. Jill remarked that she didn’t know how Brian Vaughn (Cyrano) could remember so many lines. Maybe it is easier because they rhymed? It was a nice touch to place on our seats a blanket, seat pad, program, souvenir bottle of water, and a note attached with our name on it. This was for those who had purchased premium seats. That is why we also got to meet the director. All I did was to buy tickets that got us close to the front of the stage. Speaking of which, before the play started I took a photograph of the stage for which I was rebuked. Apparently the stage is copyrighted. Fortunately the director has not been copyrighted yet so you get to see him.

I plan on reporting on an actual Shakespeare play tomorrow. Unless writing about Shakespeare is also copyrighted. :)