Today’s quiz: What do Shakespeare, Paul Leroy Robeson, Laurence Olivier and rap music have in common? If you said Othello, you’d be right. Or specifically, “Othello the Remix,” the Q Brothers adRAPtation as presented by the Scaffolding Theater Company of Las Cruces.
The performance will be streamed through New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series for three consecutive evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 30-Nov. 1.
The special presentation is part of PAS Director Ronna Kalish’s sedulous search for ways to present art during the pandemic.
The Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London in 2012, and Scaffolding Theatre Company produced the show in 2018.
“For this COVID era, director Megan McQueen realized she could now get streaming licensing rights, and remounted the production for a three-day stream in July,” Kalish said. “She contacted us and now Socorro is getting its very own licensing for re-stream for a 3-day run. Cool, yes? Cool, yes.”
The Performing Arts Series has presented two excellent Scaffolding Theater Company Productions at Macey Center — Beauty and the Beast and Five Course Love — and a couple of musical theater short performances for Tech Club Macey.
“Megan McQueen has a special connection to Socorro and New Mexico Tech via her husband Matt Reiter, who grew up in Socorro,” she said. “He is a music educator and son of New Mexico Tech Professor Emeritus Marshall Reiter and retired teacher Bonnie Reiter.
“We at PAS believe that Megan McQueen is an artistic visionary of the highest order as an infinitely talented producer, director, actress, vocalist and educator,” Kalish said. “We feel honored to be able to collaborate with and brainstorm about possibilities.
Kalish also mentioned a Q&A Talk Back session with McQueen and the actors on Sunday, November 1, on Zoom.
“Keep your eye out for an invite or email email@example.com to ask for an invite,” she said. ”Thanks so much to Megan for sharing with us her current and exciting COVD-era online theatre projects and allowing us to work together to offer this production special for the NMTPAS Socorro audience.”
Watch at 7:30 p.m. for the “real” PAS feel of attending a show, or at your leisure, any time in those three days. The show is free but you must get tickets which are available through the website nmt.edu/pas on the Othello “Read More” page.
Sponsors for this production include the Anne Sullivan Memorial, NM Tech’s Student Government and Graduate Student Associations, New Mexico Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix was commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions and premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2012. A chance viewing by director McQueen brought it to New Mexico.
“We booked tickets on a whim to one of the only shows we could find,” said McQueen. “Chicago Shakespeare was presenting a rap adaptation of Othello. It renewed our enthusiasm for theatre and its ability to reach people of any background, age, and interest. It was a fresh, inventive, moving, exhilarating take on a story that is still unbelievably resonant.”
Scaffolding Theater Co. presented the play in Las Cruces and Albuquerque in 2018. Director McQueen relates that rehearsals were often fun, even silly.
“We have also spent many an intense moment delving into the race and gender issues at the center of this play,” she said. “I still enjoy perma-grin watching this fantastically fun adaptation of a story that’s stood the test of time, and we wish you as much laughter and seat-dancing as you see fit during the show. But we also hope that the story inspires conversation and contemplation about who we value, who we envy, and who we sabotage and why.”
The Shakespearean tragedy first performed Nov. 1, 1601, in London endures as a classic in its portrayals of good people making bad decisions because of jealousy.
The 1934 Broadway production starring Paul Robeson as Othello and Jose Ferrer as lago ran almost twice as long as other Shakespeare plays and was the first time in America for a mixed-race cast.
Laurence Olivier was among the white actors to play Othello; the film version of that 1964 performance may still hold the record for number of Academy nominations.
There have been over a dozen film presentations and variety of productions in popular culture. Actor William Marshall played Othello in at least six productions and again in a jazz musical with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago in 1968.
For more information and a link for tickets, visit the website nmt.edu/pas or call 575-835-5688.