Shakespeare & Company Once Again Unleashes its 2008 Hit "Othello"

Posted June 29, 2009

“A rare Olympian music...Thompson’s voice opens windows to a world where life takes place at a more exalted pitch than most people can even imagine…As lucid and familiar as the morning radio news, even to the uninitiated…Told so clearly that you see it with fresh eyes.”—New York Times

{Lenox, Mass}— For those who were shut out of last season’s sold out run—or who relish the chance to experience the power once again—Shakespeare & Company brings back its smash hit production of Othello for a limited run. Last summer, Othello stormed to an ecstatic response from both the critics and the box office; over the winter, actor John Douglas Thompson followed up his turn in the title role by leading an Off-Broadway production of the play that caused a similar sensation, and netted him OBIE and a Lucile Lortel awards. Don’t miss this priceless chance to enjoy a remarkable rendering of one of Shakespeare’s most beautifully written and powerfully executed tragedies. Founding Company member and new Artistic Director Tony Simotes directs.

Othello plays at Founders’ Theatre July 3 to September 6. Press opening is Saturday, July 4 at 7:30pm. To RSVP or to arrange interviews, contact Publicity Director Elizabeth Aspenlieder at (413) 637-1199 ext 110 or Founders’ is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. Performances in the evenings run at 7:30 p.m. and in the afternoons at 2:00 p.m. For a complete listing of productions and schedules, to inquire about details of the 40% Berkshire Resident Discount, youth discounts and Rush Tix, or to receive a brochure, please visit the website at or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353. For group visits, contact Group Sales Manager Victoria Vining at (413) 637-1199 ext. 132.

Thompson, who is also featured this season in John Patrick Shanley’s The Dreamer Examines His Pillow (August 7—September 6), makes the very special presentation My Year With The Moor on July 28 at the Production and Performing Arts Center’s Studio 1, at 8:30 p.m. He will also join Jason Asprey (the latter playing the title role in Hamlet, performing at Founders’ Theatre until August 28) for the special talk Man of Action/Man of Thought on July 21 at the Production and Performing Arts Center’s Studio 2, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for each event are $20, or $10 for patrons under 25 years of age.

For this eagerly anticipated remount, Simotes directs returning cast members Michael Hammond (Iago), Merritt Janson (Desdemona), Tom Rindge (Duke of Venice/Soldier), John Douglas Thompson (Othello), Michael F. Toomey (Montano/Senator), Ryan Winkles (Roderigo), and Kristin Wold (Emilia), alongside newcomers Duane Allen (Cassio), Robert Biggs (Lodovico/Soldier), Ken Cheeseman (Brabantio/Soldier), and Caley Milliken (Bianca/Servant).

The 2008 production was heralded by, among others, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Shakespeare Bulletin, Metroland (“Best production of the year”), and perhaps dozens of other print and online news outlets. “I knew that with the cast I had that this play had a chance to be one of those ‘special’ events that every artist longs for, and indeed it was,” Simotes says of the original production. “None of us imagined that our play would catch the imagination of the public the way it did. The audiences taught us what it meant to speak this language in the theatre. What happens when the story, characters, action of the plot, and all the magic of the play just seem to work in tandem.”

“From my perspective, to have the opportunity to re-examine this great story and its soaring poetry with the talented group of artists that brought last year’s production to light was simply an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Simotes continues. “To come back to this mountain of a tragedy and stand at its base is frightening and awe-inspiring all at once.”

Othello depicts the turmoil that ensues when a Christian nation struggles to accept an ethnic outsider as its protector in a time of war, and his army then copes with the aftermath of a too-easily-won victory. A tale of the unraveling of reason and order mirrored by the unraveling of language, Othello probes the question of how easily social order can explode into violence when its organizing structure collapses.

When the Moorish mercenary Othello is chosen to lead the navy of Venice during a war with the Ottoman Empire, his recent, scandalous interracial marriage with one of Venetian nobility’s fairest daughters becomes public. His importance to the defense of the nation inspires “the powers that be” to assent to his marriage of Desdemona, but Othello’s officer Iago immediately begins scheming to plant false doubts in the general about the fidelity of his wife. After a quick military victory is won, Othello unravels both emotionally and physically, his spirit filled with chaos and uncertainty.


TONY SIMOTES founding member, thirty-second season (Director and Fight Director of Othello, Director of Hound of the Baskervilles; Artistic Director) Tony is a Master Teacher of Fight and Movement and has been one of the Company’s Artistic Associates since 1995. S&Co Director: The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Nights Dream, As You Like It, and Two Gentlemen of Verona. He’s been an Associate Director and Fight Director on many of Tina Packer’s shows over the years and is pleased to be back in the Berkshires this season. His work as a fight choreographer and director has been featured from coast to coast from the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles to the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theater. Recent directing credits include: Director of War of the Worlds which was broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio for the 75th anniversary of the Orson Wells presentation that panicked a nation; The Nerd for Madison Repertory Theatre and Fight Direction for Macbeth at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Internationally his work has been featured in The Stage X Festival in Brisbane Australia, The Canadian Stage Company in Toronto and in Vancouver at Theater 48 New Play Festival, just to name a few. Mr. Simotes also works as an actor and is a proud member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA. Mr. Simotes is on leave from his position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he is a full professor and recent Director of Theatre. A Standing O for my gal – Lucy.

Michael Hammond* seventeenth season (Iago in Othello; Martin Bahmueller in White People; Associate Artistic Director) Last season: Iago in Othello, Sir Simon in The Canterville Ghost. Previously at S&CO: director, Antony and Cleopatra, and Sherlock Holmes in The Secret of Sherlock Holmes. The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mister Ford), Ice Glen (Peter Woodburn), The Fly-Bottle (Ludwig Wittgenstein), Macbeth (Porter/Duncan), The Scarlet Letter (Chillingworth), The Tempest (Prospero), A Tanglewood Tale (director), Twelfth Night (Malvolio), Summer (Lawyer Royall), and The Winter’s Tale (Leontes).

JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON* fifth season (title role in Othello, the Father in The Dreamer Examines His Pillow) S&Co: Othello, All’s Well That Ends Well, King Lear. Broadway/International: Le Bret in Cyrano De Bergerac with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner, Julius Ceasar with Denzel Washington. Hotspur in Henry IV (Royal Shakespeare Company). Off-Broadway: Othello in Othello (Theatre for a New Audience, OBIE Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Drama League nomination), Women Beware Women (Red Bull Theatre), Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra, Orombo in Oroonoko (Theatre For A New Audience, AUDELCO nomination), Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler (New York Theatre Workshop), Edgar in King Lear (Classical Theatre of Harlem, AUDELCO nomination), Overtime u/s (Manhattan Theatre Club), The Changeling (The Salon). Regional: Lucius Jenkins in Jesus Hopped The A Train (Wilma Theatre, Barrymore Award Winner), Hotspur in Henry IV (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Bus Stop (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Othello, Preface To An Alien Garden, Measure for Measure (Trinity Rep Company), King Lear (Yale Rep), Mother Courage, Othello, Marat/Sade, The Winter’s Tale, Antigone, Richard II, Full Circle (American Rep Theatre), Richard III (Shakespeare Theatre), Spunk (Portland Stage). Television credits include: Conviction, Law and Order, Law and Order SVU (NBC), All My Children (ABC). Film credits include: Michael Clayton, Malcolm X.

At a Glance

Production: Othello
Theatre: Founders’ Theatre
Written by: William Shakespeare
Director & Fight Director: Tony Simotes

Cast: Duane Allen, Robert Biggs, Ken Cheeseman, Michael Hammond, Merritt Janson, Caley Milliken, Tom Rindge, John Douglas Thompson, Michael F. Toomey, Ryan Winkles, and Kristin Wold

Set Designer: Yoshi Tanokura
Costume Designer Gail Brassard
Lighting Designer: Les Dickert
Composer/Sound Designer: Scott Killian
voice & text coach Malcolm Ingram
assistant director Gina Kaufmann
Assist. Fight director & fight captain Ryan Winkles

Performing: Preview: July 3
Opens: July 4
Closes: September 6
Tickets: (413) 637-3353

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