A blog by DCRT Company Member Josh Heard
Katie, Ezra, and I recently went on an adventure to the mystical land of Omaha, Nebraska. “What’s in Nebraska?” you might ask… Other than lush green grass, rolling fields of corn, and cows (lots of cows) there is an incredible summer theatre experience awaiting your much deserved attention.
Nebraska Shakespeare Festival is very likely the largest theatre event in the midwest. Most nights the outdoor Shakespeare in the park experience sees upwards of 1000 people happily noshing on homemade picnic foods and downing icy beverages while they lounge on blankets spread across a football-sized, tree-lined field. The atmosphere of the place is only heightened by the burning glow of fireflies, and the stunned silence of children who only moments ago gayley romped about before the show.
Nebraska Shakes runs two plays by the Bard in rep (meaning you can see the same cast acting on a versatile set in two very different shows), and one of DCRT’s very own was walking the boards as the titular role in Othello. That’s right, folks, Frank Green was to be driven mad by his trusted friend, Iago, before our very eyes! Obviously we couldn’t miss it.
This production of Othello, directed by DCRT mentor, John Hardy, was astounding. Beginning as the sun’s light made room for the moon, the play’s action beautifully transformed from the beaming love of newlywed bliss to the dark propulsions of suspicion and jealousy. Quick paced, lean and mean, Hardy’s adaptation of the moor’s downfall works its characters (and audience) into an emotional frenzy that begins from the first moments of the play and doesn’t let up until the gruesome ending.
I was amazed at how quickly I fell into the story, riding the waves of omniscient turmoil as the hero of my story was beguiled by a spidery web of lies. What’s more, I was surprised to see a production in which Iago wasn’t overtly savage and evil in his scheming–if anything, it seemed as though the character hadn’t planned this endeavor and struggled with what he was doing the whole way through. What an amazing opportunity to experience the power of discovery as an audience member.
It was also the first time I’ve ever seen the character of Othello as he surely was intended to be: an overwhelming presence of strength, intelligence, authority, and blinding love. In the magic of theatre, Othello appeared to be 10 feet tall on that stage as his presence held dominion over the audience’s thoughts and emotions. He was a tidal wave that none of us wanted to or could escape from.
The only moment the production lagged for me was during a meaty section of exposition that described a storm that may or may not have ravaged the ships of an enemy fleet while simultaneously drowning Othello and his own armada. I can’t say it was for lack of effort on the part of the actors, but maybe that was the problem–a lot of energy spent telling and not a lot of doing is usually the death of audience attention. And let’s be honest, Shakespeare’s exposition is freaking hard!
I’m sad to say, Katie, Ezra, and I couldn’t stay to see As You Like It, the second show performing on the green, but by all accounts Vincent Carlson-Brown (director of DCRT’s The 39 Steps) directed a beautiful adaptation of the mistaken identity comedy in the woods.
Things we all learned from the trip: mountains may in fact be giant sleeping dragons, food in the midwest isn’t very flavorful unless you get BBQ, don’t get less than 3 hours of sleep before you drive in either direction, some small towns have strict no public restroom policies, Nebraskans love to set off fireworks two weeks before the Fourth of July, the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival is the bomb, and driving 980 miles is nothing when you’re going to see some incredible theatre.