The opera world is a world that I love. Back home in San Diego a great opera director-friend of mine worked with Kenny Leon to direct Toni Morrison’s production of Margaret Garner. This was the first time I engaged with Toni Morrison’s work in the opera world. Since then I have made myself aware of her developing projects. Currently Toni Morrison is working with Peter Sellar on a project entitled Desdemona, which you can read more about it there. The women in Shakespeare’s OTHELLO do not have a voice, and when Emilia attempts to speak truth she is killed by Iago. Morrison decides to bring Desadoma’s voice out of the story of OTHELLO.
For someone who has neither seen nor read the script, it’s hard to comment on the nature of the production. However from the description of the work, I love that Morrison gives Desdemona a voice, but doesn’t demonize Othello in doing so. Although Othello has committed obscene crimes, the decision of making Othello a character forced to be a child solider humanizes his character. No one is blamed, yet everyone is responsible. Whereas in Shakespeare’s OTHELLO, Desdemona embodies everything is white, pure, and chased. This is always a concept that I had a problem with.
Morrison also brings, singer/songwriter Rokia Traore aboard and weaves together a cross dialogue between Barbary and Desdamona. An intimate cross dialogue amongst women.
I have come to realize that as an actor we are dramaturgs for our characters. It’s our responsibility to advocate for our character’s voice. There’s a lot of value in asking the question what does each character have to say, and what are they not allowed to say? In those questions there’s room for the development of new work.
Seriously check this out: Click!