Guest artist, New York-based, 2010 Obie Award winning and recent Lortel nominanee, director, Pam MacKinnon was on the Artists on Art show for August 3, 2010. She has directed many plays, mostly contemporary. At the end of this year, Ms MacKinnon will be directing Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for the Steppenwolf Theater. She is a Drama League and Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab alumna and an Affiliated Artist with the New York downtown company, Clubbed Thumb.
Pam came up to the KZSC studio to discuss directing the upcoming Shakespeare Santa Cruz theatrical production of Othello. Opening night was Tuesday, August 3 running through August 29, 2010. This is third play to open for this Santa Cruz Shakespeare season. This is Pam’s first full Shakespeare production.
Pam brings a very different approach to Othello from the contemporary feel of the play, downplaying the jealousy and amplifying Desdemona while staying true to Shakespeare’s intent. We discussed how Othello is similar to contemporary theater plays through the simple use of language as compared to the nuanced poetic language of his other works. Also, there is a lot of two characters talking. When a third character enters the scene, someone leaves.
We discussed the themes of jealousy and love built on fantasy. She explained that jealousy is an internal feeling and not the action of the play. As a director, she helped show how that is expressed through the acting. She spoke of her take on the play being about infection. Iago plants the seeds of doubt in Othello’s belief in Desdemona’s fidelity. The action for Othello is the spread of the infection the results in the worst of actions, murder. Iago was able to do this successfully because Othello and Desdemona’s marriage was brand-spanking new and based on romantic fantastical notions. Othello says that he fell in love with Desdemona when she cried at hearing his tales of battle. They didn’t get the time to solidify their marriage.
Lastly, we discussed the “boys behaving badly” theme of Othello. I think it is wonderful that a woman directs this play and gives a different take. For example, Pam reinforces Desdemona’s agency and downplaying her victimization. This is certainly a unique and valuable perspective brought to a play that has too often been played with a softening Desdemona’s role.
Below are pictures from the play. The last picture is Pam directing.
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