House manager Jane Eisner joined the crew of Othello on the community tour, and has been keeping notes during every performance. She has written previously about her unique perspective on the audience response to Othello—read on to see how the tour is faring, and join us for one of our public tours, tonight in Oakland or Saturday in Concord.
Excerpt from House Report 3: Federal Correctional Insitute Dublin 10/24/16
Hello all, last night’s performance took place inside of the Federal Correctional Institute—Dublin, a women’s prison in Dublin, CA. The performance was held on a basketball court inside of a dome shaped rec center. It was a special night full of emotion, love, and deep gratitude. The folks of the prison were deeply engaged and brimming with insights. We were greeted with cupcakes and potato chips upon arrival (thanks Dublin!), rain could be heard pit-patting on the tin roof throughout the show which added to the warmth of the night.
The night started with Lance’s pre-show comedy routine, which was received with much laughter. At the start of the show, after each actor introduced themselves, the audience members clapped and cheered loudly—their immediate support for the cast set the tone for the evening.
There were many moments throughout the show that revved up laughter, cheers, distress, and loud sighs. There was big applause when Othello and Desdemona united and kissed— a lot of people spoke on how much they enjoyed seeing the love and chemistry between D&O—beyond everything else, the crowd was rooting for their love.
Bianca’s character got so much support from this audience—more love than Bianca has ever gotten from a crowd, Elizabeth remarked. It was interesting to see how much these women of Dublin embraced each character for who they were and were able to see all parts of them.
Roderigo got lots of laughs throughout—he was the laughter catalyst and smiles came up instantly whenever he entered a scene.
The crowd was fighting for Othello and Desdemona’s love. When Othello showed his rage against Desdemona and then sat down in the audience, the woman next to him whispered to him, “calm down, calm down, she didn’t do it.” After the slapping scene, when it seemed as if O&D were going to make up, there was huge cheering, when Othello then turned against Desdemona, the audience was shocked.
Unfortunately, we had to end early because the women needed to be out of the theater by 8:40pm for count. We ended right after the strangulation scene and had a small talk back with a select group of women. It was heartbreaking having to end early. Needless to say, the cast received a complete standing ovation and cheers.
Many of us were lucky enough to meet the woman who wrote us to the letter about her experience seeing The Tempest last year—she was just as lovely as her words. She and a select few of her cohorts stayed after the show to have a private talk back with the cast. These were their thoughts.
Talkback: Initial thoughts and feelings
“Chemistry between O&D”
“When you cried, I cried”
“You really touched me”
“I didn’t like you” (Iago)
“I can’t believe you choked her!”
“Your connection—how you had such a love for this person and then you could believe the deceit “
“Blinded by love”
“The contemporary clothing made it translate better for me.”
“Thank you—it opened my eyes to something new.”
Lance: “As an artist this feels like the safest space—So giving.”
Elizabeth: “I’ve never had Bianca have so much love.”
“We waited a year for you to come back.” (referring to the time between now and The Tempest)
“I can’t wait to see you on the outside one day.”
Tierra [Allen, Artistic Engagement Associate] adds the following:
(Was there a moment that stood out to you?) “All of it, because it’s life.”
“Thank you so much for bringing it to us.”
“You (Desdemona & Othello) had such a love, but you could go so easily off someone else’s word.”
“That showed Othello’s insecurities. He didn’t think he deserved Desdemona’s love.”
(When Iago & Desdemona hug) “That was your one redeeming moment for me. That moment where he had a human moment. Because you (Iago) look like my family…”
(About Emilia) “When a woman is not getting attention from her husband…it eats her up.”
(When Desdemona is begging Othello to believe her) “That’s every young woman who sees she’s not good enough. To plead for affection and to be forgiven but to not be believed—that was worse than the slap.”
(Aldo noticed one woman nodded strongly during Cassio’s ‘reputation’ moment and asked her to say more about how she connected with that moment.) “I was 33 before I got arrested, and my family said “oh my gosh, you’re a drug dealer, you got arrested.” You (Cassio) had merit behind your reputation. I related to it. There’s a lot of my world, my reputation, that I have to build again on merit.”
“That’s what’s sad—so little has changed. A presidency, a lieutenancy, one thing can tarnish a reputation.” (This was the woman who connected Cassio to Obama, described what it would be like if Obama had made many of the remarks that Trump has made.)
(Liz talked about appreciating getting to tell the story for a crowd of all women and that she wanted to do it right) “You did. You did us so well.”
“That disconnect in the slap—the whole world froze, and you think ‘this is not happening.’”
(About Cal Shakes coming back) “We could not wait. I’ve been waiting a year for the workshop and for you to come back. I hope you keep coming back because we really appreciate it.”