By William Shakespeare. Director: Kristin Kundert.
Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy pits the conniving Iago against his trusting friend Othello, weaving a potent commentary on jealousy, betrayal, and racism that reverberates still today. An entirely unique theatrical experience in the Fine Arts Theatre, seated on stage in the midst of the raw, emotionally-driven action. Read the press release here. RSVP on Facebook.
Apr. 6-7, 12-14 @ 8:00pm
Apr. 8 & 15 @ 2:30pm
Fine Arts Theatre (255 Baldwin St.)
Tickets: $16, $12 for Students
Dramaturg NOTES: Fran Teague
In another Shakespeare play, a coldly logical character observes:
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
Apprehension—the taking in of information—differs from comprehension—thoughtful understanding of that information. After all, the speech concludes, “in the night, imagining some fear, /How easy is a bush supposed a bear.”
Many years ago, I saw a production of Othello with an audience who had little knowledge of the play. Their weak apprehension led them to think the play was a comedy about a braggart soldier and the clever servant who tricked him. For most of the evening, they laughed with Iago, the smartest guy in the room, as he tricked everyone. As the play drew to an end, they became uneasy, realizing that their apprehension had made them mis-comprehend what was happening. The closing moments of the play were received with gasps of horror and disbelief. I have rarely had a more uncomfortable evening in the theatre.
The characters in this play apprehend a great many things, but struggle to comprehend them. Iago, for example, apprehends every scrap of gossip he can, but he comprehends what he hears (or invents) through his own desire to destroy. Whether he is a lover or a madman, his faulty comprehension drives him. Cassio, as well, fails to comprehend that the advice Iago gives him will lead him to danger. Emilia fails to comprehend her own husband: once she realizes what she has unwittingly done, she is marked for death. Most cruelly, Othello apprehends the “proof” he requires without thoughtful understanding. He becomes a tool for Iago to use viciously, and the play ends violently, tragically, for him and the innocent Desdemona.
In an ideal theatre, the audience watching the play would ask themselves what they apprehend in the world around them. Do we swallow half truths, allow desire to shape our judgment, act without comprehension? If we watch the play and assess its characters on appearance, preconceptions, or what others say, then we too lack comprehension.