Rather than classic Elizabethan-style Shakespeare, the Monroe County Civic Theater presented a sexually revolutionized “Othello” this weekend.
The production lit up Third Street Park on Friday and Saturday night. Audiences relaxed and picnicked on the lawn of the park as they viewed a 1972 rendition of William Shakespeare’s 1603 play “Othello: The Moor of Venice.”
Beneath a canopy sat the outdoor stage, complete with scenery of yin-yang symbols, flowers, peace signs and the graffiti phrase “Make Love Not War.”
Wearing hippie costumes, characters entered the stage, where attitudes of negativity were placed against Othello, played by Andy Alphonse. A secret marriage between people of different races and a ruined friendship ensued as the villain, Iago, played by Nicole Bruce, schemed and plotted to destroy Othello.
But Othello was naive and trusted Iago and served their friendship over his beloved wife, Desdemona, played by Sarah Ruggles. Through complex manipulation of characters, Iago deceived Othello into thinking his Desdemona was having an affair with his lieutenant, Cassio, played by Ana Delong.
“It is somewhat realistic to today, how one person is able to trick and control so many virtuous people,” audience member Michael Berndt said.
The characters of the play were mostly female.
Directors Nate Stanger, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and Sheila Butler, Stanger’s mother, said they cast roles of power to women on purpose.
Originally, the play was organized around men and the women are simple props in a game of betrayal and envy.
“The gender switch is interesting because it is actually truer to the female nature,” audience member Claire Pruitt said.
Rock music from time of the Vietnam War upheaval played throughout the performance. Songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane and Buffalo Springfield were featured, among others.
In addition, musician Marki Gray performed an acoustic version of a song arranged for the play, “Willow,” and also played guitar during intermission.
During the performance, many people on foot in the downtown area strolled through the park and stopped to watch a scene.
“Having Shakespeare in the park is inviting and attractive to the community because people can see entertainment in a laid-back and summery atmosphere without having to pay an arm and a leg,” stage manager Katelyn Vesely said.
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