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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Honest Villains and Noble Killers: The Iago/Othello Character Dynamic at Stratford Festival

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The Festival hosts second annual Symposium:

August 27, 2013… In the second annual Stratford Festival Symposium, Honest Villains and Noble Killers: The Iago/Othello Character Dynamic, influential theatre artists and intellectuals will express their views on Shakespeare’s Othello with a particular focus on its famed villain and hero.

A part of The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, the event will be held at the Studio Theatre on Thursday, September 12.

In the famous play, the character of Iago is key to why and how the story unfolds; Iago has even more lines than Othello. Many great actors have played both parts on stage, and every new production raises complex questions. A discussion reflecting on Othello’s implications will be led by Ellen Geer, Artistic Director of the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Los Angeles, and Dr. Caroline Bicks, Associate Professor of English at Boston College, as well as company members from this season’s production of Othello, Graham Abbey, Bethany Jillard and Dion Johnstone.

“Our audiences are always looking for more ways to explore the work they see on our stages,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Providing opportunities that allow visitors to become fully immersed in theatre is an important part of the Stratford experience. This symposium, along with all of our Forum events, is an invaluable experience that offers just that. We are delighted to have Ellen Geer and Dr. Caroline Bicks, as well as three of our own leading artists, join us for this exciting event, giving audiences a unique opportunity to delve into the world of Othello.”

“This is also a great time to check out this year’s fantastic exhibition focusing on the four Shakespeare plays we have on stage this season: Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “The artifacts on display are from our outstanding archival collection which has grown into an internationally recognized theatre resource, featuring content from each decade of the Festival’s history since 1952. The rare opportunity to get a close-up look at our props, costumes, unique artifacts, rare photos and footage is not to be missed.”

The symposium is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m on September 12. Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved through the Festival’s box office, 1.800.567.1600.

Support for the Symposium is generously provided by Dr. Jules and Josephine Harris.

Since 1978, Ellen Geer has been Artistic Director of the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Los Angeles, one of the most innovative professional repertory theatres in North America. The name of this outdoor “Theatre of Plants,” founded in 1973, pays homage to the plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Ms Geer has produced and directed over forty productions and is a renowned theatre, film and television actor, director and educator. Her 2005 production of Othello received outstanding reviews. Her film credits include Harold and Maude, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. A graduate professor of classical acting in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles, she has received numerous awards for her work at Theatricum and in the community, including a Los Angeles County “Woman of the Year” award.

Dr. Caroline Bicks is Associate Professor of English at Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts) and is also on the faculty of the Bread Loaf School of English. She is the author of Midwiving Subjects in Shakespeare’s England (Ashgate, 2003), co-editor with Jennifer Summit of The History of British Women’s Writing, volume 2 (Palgrave 2011) and author of numerous articles on anatomy, maternity and girl-actors in the early modern period. She is currently writing a book on English girlhood that considers the figure of the adolescent female performer. Her non-academic writing has appeared in the “Modern Love” column of the New York Times, on “McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,” on NPR’s All Things Considered, and in the book and show Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read in a Parenting Magazine.” With Michelle Ephraim, she writes a blog called “Everyday Shakespeare: Where Bard Meets Life.”

Bethany Jillard is currently in her fourth season at the Stratford Festival; she plays Desdemona in this year’s Othello, as well as Constance in The Three Musketeers. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre. Her Stratford roles include Katherine in Henry V (2012), Hero in Much Ado About Nothing (2012), Lady Anne in Richard III (2011) and Cécile in Dangerous Liaisons (2010). Other roles include Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (world première – Manitoba Theatre Centre), The Little Years (Tarragon), After Miss Julie (MTC Warehouse) and My Name Is Rachel Corrie (Theatre Panik). Film and television roles include If I Were You (Paragraph), Murdoch Mysteries (Shaftesbury) and Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (TMN). She is the recipient of the Peter Donaldson Guthrie Award (2012) and the Stage West­–Equity Emerging Theatre Artist Award (2010).

Dion Johnstone is in his eighth season at the Festival. He is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA in Acting Program and the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre. He plays Othello in this year’s production. Other roles at Stratford include Aaron in Titus Andronicus (2011), Caliban in TheTempest (2010), Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (2010), Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2009), Macduff in Macbeth (2009), Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird (2007) and Edmund in King Lear (2007). Roles elsewhere include Marc Antony in Julius Caesar (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), George in A Raisin in the Sun (Soulpepper), Boromir in The Lord of the Rings (Mirvish Productions) and Davey Battle in Take Me Out (Canadian Stage). Guest-star and principal film and television credits include roles in Flashpoint, Cracked, Defiance, The Listener, Underground Railroad (documentary) and Stargate SG-1.

Graham Abbey is in his fourteenth season at the Festival. He plays Iago in this year’s Othello, as well as Athos in The Three Musketeers. Other roles at Stratford include Posthumus in Cymbeline (2012), Henry V (2001), Macbeth (2004), Romeo (2002), Henry VIII (2004), Jaques in As You Like It (2005), Prince Hal in Henry IV (2001), D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers (2000), Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew (2003), Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest (2000) and Hap Loman in Death of a Salesman (1997). Roles elsewhere include Hamlet (Resurgence), Jeff Skilling in Enron (Theatre Calgary), Sam Byck in Assassins (Talk Is Free/Birdland), Charles in The School for Scandal and Valère in The Molière Comedies (Chicago Shakespeare). Television roles include series lead in The Border (CBC) and recurring roles in Degrassi, Murdoch Mysteries, Covert Affairs and Republic of Doyle. Film credits include Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz opposite Sarah Silverman, Casino Jack, 388 Arletta Avenue, Othello, Defendor, Stealing Paradise and Secrets of Eden. He was also a series regular in Afghanada (CBC Radio). The recipient of a Dora Award and a Monte Carlo Television Festival nomination, he is the Artistic Director of Groundling Theatre (Groundlingtheatre.com).

Festival Exhibition
104 Downie Street (across from the Avon Theatre), Wednesdays through Sundays
Explore present and past productions of Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice. A vast selection of costumes, props and artifacts from our Archives are displayed in a beautiful museum-style venue.
Admission: $6 adults; $5 seniors and students; $4 per person for groups of 10 or more; free admission for children under 13; special $2 price per person for school groups.

Archives Tours
350 Douro Street, Thursdays and Fridays
Discover 60 years of Festival history at one of the world’s largest performing arts archives.
Admission: $8 per person; $6 for seniors and students.

Othello runs until October 19. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

Othello is sponsored by BMO Financial Group. Production support is generously provided by Larry Enkin & family in memory of Sharon Enkin and Martie & Bob Sachs.

Support for the 2013 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham Family.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season features Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof, The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.

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