Westlake students prepare to perform “Othello”
Students bring vision of play to Shakespeare Theatre Company stage
Betrayal. Jealousy. False accusations. Deceit. Murder. The timeless themes of William Shakespeare’s play “Othello” will be performed by students from Westlake High School on the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s stage in Washington, D.C., later this month.
The opportunity to perform on the STC stage is offered through the company’s “Text Alive!” program, wherein high school students work with STC performers to learn more about Shakespeare, his plays, and performing those plays. The semester-long program culminates with students designing and performing a scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays.
This year, approximately 60 students in three classes are taking part, due to a grant from the Charles County Arts Alliance, said Westlake English teacher James Mascia.
The students will be performing their scenes April 30 at the Lansburg Theatre in Washington, D.C.
The three classes are performing their own scenes. As part of the discussion of the play, students have the opportunity to develop the setting for their scene, including wardrobe, props and background, said Paul Reisman, STC teaching artist.
One class has chosen a piratical setting, another has chosen a Mafia gang setting, and the third class has chosen an ancient Roman setting.
Not all of the students will act in the play, but other students will have a role in stage direction, props and background, Reisman said.
“Every class gets to decide what their own design concept, how the scene will be presented,” Reisman said. “Each class adds their own interpretation to the material.”
Ben Booker, 17, is the set and costume design director for the class that chose an ancient Roman setting.
“Othello is based in the 1600s, and we felt that a Roman setting had many of the same themes, with the differences between higher and lower classes, the role of the military, so we decided to use that for our setting,” Booker said.
Last week, Reisman worked with students acting in the play on their roles, getting into character and the staging of the play.
Bridgette Wilson, 18, will play Desdemona, wife of Othello, after she has been falsely accused of infidelity in Act IV, scene iii of the play. Wilson said she can relate to what Desdemona is going through in that scene.
“I had a friend that was in a similar situation to [Desdemona], and I understand how she felt in that situation,” Wilson said.
Ean Rutledge, 18, will play Iago, the villain of the play, as he convinces Desdemona’s spurned suitor, Roderigo, to kill Othello’s lieutenant, in Act IV, scene ii.
“He’s a sneaky, sly person, and I can relate to that,” Rutledge said.
Reisman said one of the goals of the program is to help the students gain a better understanding and appreciation of “Othello”.
“Shakespeare’s plays were really written to be performed, not just read, so I want them to get a real sense of what the text is for, and and for them to see it in action,” Reisman said.
Westlake senior Kiree Moore, left, as Roderigo, confronts Ean Rutledge, as Iago, in a rehearsal of Act IV Scene ii of William Shakespeare’s “Othello”. Westlake students will perform the scene on the stage of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., April 30.
Paul Reisman, Shakespeare Theatre Company teaching artist, helps Westlake seniors Bridgette Wilson, seated, who plays Desdemona, and Careese Smith, standing, who plays Bianca, in Act IV, Scene iii of William Shakespeare’s “Othello”. The Westlake students will perform their scene as part of STC’s “Text Alive!” in Washington, D.C., April 30.