For the third annual Shakespeare in the schools program we revived a popular production of Othello that previously toured in December 2004. The story of a victorious and celebrated general brought down by jealousies induced by a psycopathic "friend" resonated with many student audiences. Like several Shakespeare tragedies, the story is peppered with some lighter and unexpected elements. Iago, though possessing an undefined evil, is funny, saracastic and energetic which at times wins him over to the audience. One departure in this production was the treatment of Desdemona. Many theatrical conventions seem to treat her more of an innocent damsel who is over taken by a powerful older man. However, several passages in the text contradict this fragile interpretation and make her a worthy counterpart in mind and spirit to her warrior husband.
All photos taken at St. Mary's High School, Jersey City, NJ
Othello (Michael Hagins) wins the hearts and minds of his adopted home of Venice by rising through it's ranks from captured slave to general of it's armies and winning the heart and mind of Desdemona daughter of a Venetian Senator
Desdemona (Julie Anne McMillan) and Othello (Michael Hagins) elope one night with the help of two of Othello's officers Cassio and Iago. Much to the anger of Desdemona's father, Barbantio. His protests fall on deaf ears in the Senate as Desdemona chooses to stay with her new husband.
The enigmatic Iago (Jonathan Brown) broods over his hate for Othello, the moor. Though he states several reasons for hating him from suspecting Othello has slept with his wife to the promotion of a the young officer Cassio over him, his hatred takes on a pathological and evil bent. Above he fixates on his wedding ring and the supposed adultery of his wife Emilia.
Roderigo (Julio Pena), a Venetian gentleman who is a former suitor Desdemona desperately employs Iago to stop Othello from running off her.
Othello (Michael Hagins) is confronted in the street by Roderigo (Julio Pena) and an officer of Desdemona's father believeing he has kidnapped her.
As the happy couple relocate to the military installation of Cyprus, Othello and Desdemona are accompanied by Emilia (Heather Rogers) the bitter and cynical wife of Iago. One day when Desdemona drops a hankerchief, Emilia relishes the idea of taking it and presenting it to her husband in an effort to gain some pleasure in his eyes.
Above, a rarely playful Emilia (Heather Rogers) dangles an unexpected prize in Iago's (J.B Lawrence) face. He then uses the hankerchief to further his of insinuating to Othello that the young officer Cassio has been sleeping with Desdemona..
Othello (Michael Hagins) while initially joking off Iago's assertions of infidelity between his wife and Cassio, reacts violently as suspicions of the act mount and he is overwhelmed with jealousy.
Desdemona (Julie Ann McMillan) is dismayed at the suddena and shockingly cold turn of her once familar husbund Othello (Michael Hagins).
Each meeting with Iago (J,B. Lawrence) pushes Othello (Michale Hagins) more and more over the edge as Iago presents supposed evidence of the infidelity through the stolen hankerchief. Above, Iago, whispers for Othello to "set things right" by strangling Desdemona in their bed.
Two wives driven together by distant husbands. The world weary Emilia (Heather Rogers) seeks to instruct Desdemona (Julie Ann McMillan) on the ways that men use women and that women have every right to use their own devices to make their own way in the world. However, the idealistic and still in love Desdemona refuses to give up on her husband and continues to feel that they will prevail.
Cassio (Chris Cusano) is attacked by the duped Roderigo (Julio Pena). Both are wounded but Roderigo is later killed by Iago, it marks the beginning of the end of Iago's evil plan.
In the opening scene, Iago complains to Roderigo that Othello, his Commander, has passed him over to promote the handsome young Cassio to be his Lieutenant. He vows to get revenge. Iago first asks Roderigo to tell Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, that his daughter has left to marry Othello, a marriage Brabantio opposes because Othello is a Moor. Brabantio confronts Othello, and they take their argument to the Duke, who has summmoned Othelloto ask him to sail to Cyprus to stop a Turkish invasion. Convinced by Othello and Desdemona that they love each other deeply despite their differences, the Duke gives Desdemona permission to travel with Othello. By the time they reach Cyprus the foreign threat has gone.
Iago manipulates Cassio to make him drunk and gets Roderigo to draw him into a street fight. Iago has his revenge on Cassio when Othello strips Cassio of his rank for misbehavior. Then Iago decides to make Othello believe his wife is unfaithful. He encourages Cassio to ask Desdemona to plead with Othello to be reinstated. Iago suggests to Othello that Desdemona is Cassio’s lover. Trusting Iago, and mad with jealousy, Othello promotes Iago and asks Iago to help him kill Cassio and Desdemona.
Iago plants Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s room. Cassio gives it to his mistress, Bianca. Othello believes Bianca’s possession of the handkerchief is proof that Desdemona and Cassio are lovers. He verbally abuses his wife in front of others, who are shocked at the change in the noble and powerful man.
Iago has manipulated Roderigo into trying to kill Cassio. The attempt goes wrong, and Cassio wounds Roderigo; Iago stabs Cassio in the leg. Othello hears Cassio cry out and thinks Iago has killed him. He returns home, ready to kill Desdemona. Meanwhile, Iago “finds” the wounded Cassio and accuses Bianca of causing Cassio’s injury. Iago quietly kills Roderigo and sends Emilia (Iago’s wife) to Desdemona with news of what has happened.
Othello reaches the sleeping Desdemona first. He kisses her, wakes her, and accuses her again. Over her protests that she loves him and is innocent, he smothers her. Emilia enters and Desdemona revives for a moment, declaring herself guiltless but saying, as she dies, that Othello is innocent of her death. Iago and others enter, and Emilia defends Desdemona’s innocence, recognizing that Iago is behind the tragedy.Othello sees the truth and tries to kill Iago. Iago kills Emilia and flees; Othellocondemns himself and commits suicide. Iago is seized and taken away.