Pictured is Skyler Cooper in Othello, 2019. 

Ever wonder why Shakespeare’s plays are produced world-wide over 400 years after his death? Attending one of his most powerful plays, The Tragedie of Othello, answers that question. Playwright-past and audience-present grapple with tragedy sparked by race, love, honor and ultimately, betrayal. Produced outdoors at Wente Vineyards by Livermore Shakespeare Festival this summer, Othello is the story of a Black army general and hero, desperately in love with his Caucasian wife, and Iago, the ensign, who manipulates everyone around him, ultimately leading to multiple tragedies.

Frequent Livermore Shakes leading actor Michael Wayne Rice directs the production setting the play in post-Civil War America. Rice explains, “Post Civil War, there was a brief period of ‘racial reconstruction’ in which white Republicans created laws that would grant blacks voting rights and attempt economic equality in the labor market. Conversely the Antebellum South would enact laws, ‘the new slavery laws’ that were technically and skillfully crafted to circumvent the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln passed before his assassination. It feels like today, we are in a similar moment in history where we have tried to have a constructionist’s national view of more equality for people of all races, while still fighting the ‘antebellum’ mentality of our current political system. The parallels are astonishing.”

Rice, as well as Founder and Artistic Director Lisa A. Tromovitch are hopeful that the production will serve as a springboard to a wider community dialogue on the issues surrounding race and gender relations and the effect on our lives.

“The purpose of theater is to create community, whether it’s by exploring important issues together, or simply coming together in a live environment to share an emotional romp through a comedy, tragedy or whatever,” added Tromovitch. “Othello could be a contemporary TV drama. It’s amazing how we’re still in the same struggle other eras faced as we strive to become confident in our ability to live together, as a community of different races, genders & gender identities, etc. It’s fascinating to see what Shakespeare observed 400+ years ago and how it relates to today. And the action is just as powerful and riveting as any drama we see onscreen.”

Rice continues, “A real community creates forums for discussion and action. A real community recognizes that differences do and will occur but don't have to be founded in animosity. Community story is more powerful than the individual story. Patrons of the show will, for a short period of time, be part of an exclusive community within the veil of this production of Shakespeare's Othello. I want people to speak about personal experiences that may relate to the issues and themes the play may spark. I expect to have frank post-show discussions where people can speak freely about their feelings. I want to open up our nation’s silo-ed communications so that we can start to understand each other.”

Livermore Shakespeare Festival will produce Shakespeare’s, The Tragedie of Othello and the irreverent madcap comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield on the grounds of Wente Vineyards Estate Winery & Tasting room at 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore July 3 – August 4, 2019.

For dates and detailed information visit LivermoreShakes.org. Tickets range from $25 to $58 and are day-dependent, with discounts for seniors, students and educators. For tickets call (925) 443-BARD or visit www.LivermoreShakes.org.