Rockland Shakespeare Company Stages Two Othello’s

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By Victoria Tanner

Stephanie Ruppen and Christopher Plummer star as Desdemona and Othello in the Rockland Shakespeare Players "EThello" which takes the classic tale into an alternate universe.
Stephanie Ruppen and Christopher Plummer star as Desdemona and Othello in the Rockland Shakespeare Players “EThello” which takes the classic tale into an alternate universe.

Shakespeare in the Park is a classic summer activity for friends and families who enjoy a bit of Shakespeare with a bit of imagination. In Rockland there is one troupe that puts on free shows for fans of the famous bard.
The Rockland Shakespeare Company’s 19th season is in full swing at the Rockland Community College Campus in Suffern, New York.
This season the company has staged three productions: “The Winter’s Tale,” “Othello” and an alternate version of Shakespeare’s tragedy the company has called “EThello.”
The company decided to stage two versions of Othello, one traditional staging and the other, which takes place in a futuristic world similar to James Cameron’s Avatar, brought together Shakespeare’s past with where the works might go in the future.
The lead cast of Othello traded parts with their character’s counterparts for EThello. For the Othello production, co-founder of the company Christopher Plummer plays Iago, the play’s main antagonist scheming to bring down Othello. But during the EThello staging, Plummer plays Othello.
The actors portraying Othello, Iago, Desdemonda and Emilia learned two sets of lines and staging. Watching both performances of Othello back to back shows how strong the actors are as performers. Their love of Shakespeare is evident and the world Shakespeare created comes to life on the lawn.
The EThello version of the show is perfect for lovers of Shakespeare and sci-fi. Inserting the play in an alternate universe but keeping the lines consistent with the original shows Shakespeare in a new light. According to the performance booklet, this is the first time the RSC has tried something like this.
The lack of sets enables the audience to imagine the setting and EThello gives people an opportunity to look at Shakespeare a bit differently. Fans of science fiction or Cameron’s film might find the play easier to understand.
Performing in an open space behind RCC’s Tech Center in the Quad, the actors grab the audience’s attention from the start of Act I. Their captivating portrayal of Othello’s story and romance with Desdemonda in Cyprus brings the audience through a classic Shakespeare tragedy involving heartbreak and death.
The company’s final performances will be this upcoming weekend. All shows are free.
The final two performances of The Winter’s Tale will be on Thursday, July 21 and Sunday, July 24. Othello will be performed on Friday July 22 and ETello on Saturday July 23. All performances begin at 7 p.m. and guests should bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on for an evening of live theater.

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