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Theater review: ‘Othello’

othelloThe title is “Othello,” but the show belongs to Iago, that vexing Shakespeare villain whose name has become synonymous with fomenting deceit and jealousy. Or at least that’s the case in the brisk new production of “Othello” mounted by the Woodward Shakespeare Festival.

In this promising but flawed production, directed so swiftly and decisively by J.J. Cobb that at times it seemed abrupt, the character of Iago prompted a visceral response from the audience. At one point I thought that the woman sitting in front of me might have to be restrained from rushing the stage and slapping him.

It’s a juicy role for Miles Villanueva, a Fresno State actor who’s been much seen recently on the university’s stage. Youthful and swaggering, he plays Iago with hint of a smirk and a sullen sexuality. He’s a bit of a thug: perhaps not the smartest guy in the room in a big-picture sense but perfectly competent at wreaking havoc. You could see him in the present day being a corporate raider or organized-crime lieutenant. When he begins spelling out his grand plan to ruin his boss, Othello, by manipulating him into thinking that his wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful, you’re caught up in the audacity of it all.

Cobb, a Fresno State theater graduate who has gone on to compile a national resume of directing outdoor theater, knows the perils and possibilities of performing under the stars, and she works hard to keep the audience engaged. Iago literally bounds onto the stage to start the action — a zippy beginning that sets the tone for the evening. The pace of the show never lags, and with the exception of the climactic scene, the energy level remains combustible.

The steps that Iago take to stoke his boss’ jealousy are almost ridiculously simple if they weren’t so effective. With the smitten Desdemona (Danielle Jorn) married to Othello (James Taylor), the dark-skinned Moor greatly in favor with the Venetian court because of his military prowess, the stage is set for Iago’s machinations.

Cobb sets the production in 1558, so it has something of a timeless classic feel. Chris Campbell and Michael Peterson’s functional set has clean, traditional lines. Debora Bolen’s beautifully color-coordinated costumes, lightweight and sleekly cut, evoke perhaps a bit more of a modern sensibility than the set — I kept thinking that Iago’s spiffy blue vest looked like something you could pick up in Gore-Tex at REI — but still ground the production in a particular time and place. This is a good call, considering the specificity of Shakespeare’s plot, particularly the ethnic storyline.

Cobb’s one big directorial flourish comes in the form of the famed (and some would say magical) handkerchief that Iago uses to stoke Othello’s jealousy. The actors mime the prop, which Shakespeare describes as spotted with strawberries. On one hand, I can see why Cobb wanted to elevate this important symbol in the play to metaphorical status. (Can something as intangible and evanescent as love be depicted in concrete terms?) But in an otherwise realistic production, this directorial conceit sticks out as too heavy-handed.

The festival’s new slip-stage, which allows scenery to be slid into place, is a nice touch. But it does have the effect of forcing key scenes to be played far away from the audience. This has a particular impact on the climactic deathbed scene, which seemed a little detached and uninvolved compared to the rest of the play. Just as things should be heating up to uncontrollable explosiveness, we lose some of the impact.

Much of the cast are Fresno State theater students, which gives the production a youthful feel. Perhaps a little too youthful in some cases.

As Othello, Taylor struggles at times with the bigness of his character, never convincing us fully either of his charismatic ability to lead great armies nor of his tremendous, festering capacity for jealous anger. Brandon Lindner is more successful as the jovial Cassio, infusing him with a bouncy, party-boy mentality, but needs to work on his diction and connecting with his character’s sturdier underpinnings.

Hal Bolen, as Desdemona’s father, has some nice blustery moments.

Jorn, as Desdemona, is a stately and forceful presence on stage. (When her character finally figures out her fate, it’s wrenching.) I was particularly impressed with Jacque Babb as the pivotal Emilia, wife of Iago, whose amazingly complex hand in Othello’s downfall is tempered with a strong, fierce feminist stance that acknowledges women as potent sexual beings. (Her “Have we not affections?” speech is the strongest in the production.)

And then there’s Villanueva, whose Iago paces like a confident cat, one hand clenched behind his back lingering on his sheathed dagger. At times his monologues are a little too pat — a little too smirky, with blinding smiles interrupting the smarminess — but his is a character built to provoke. When Cassio says, “Good night, honest Iago,” you’re supposed to blanch.

And we did.

Responses to "Theater review: ‘Othello’"

Annie Nomus says:

I agree with Donald about being promising but flawed. The cast was too young to pull off adult roles and very green when doing Shakespeare. There is a different acting approach, and Jacque Babb was the only one to understand that. Her last seen was the best part of the show. Go see this show anyway because it is free. Bring some culture into your lives and some fresh air.

Red The Playtoo says:

Villanueva, as Iago, was quite good; as were most of the female characters, especially Jorn as Desdemona; Jorn was probably more beautiful than Shakespeare’s creation. Lindner does a kind of “put on” with his voice that is offputting; he needs to revamp his speech completely.

Taylor was good in other plays but not in “Othello.” Overall, the play was entertaining and successful–even with the glitches. Would love to see variety of plays in the Park by A. Miller, T. Williams and A.Wilson, too.

Stephen says:

I haven’t seen Othello yet (this weekend for me), but here again, I sorta take you, Donald, to task for the review.

This review is just as harsh as your Arcadia review, and not quite as harsh as your Shakespeare in Hollywood review.

Arcadia was $15 bucks. I don’t know if the actors were paid, but if so, it becomes something a bit more than just ‘community theatre.’ There is an expectation of professionalism there.

Good Company Players actors are ‘paid’ a small amount for their time, and due to the longevity of the company, there’s an expectation of professionalism there as well.

The Othello actors are not paid, and the performance doesn’t cost a red cent for anyone to see. There should be no expectations of merit or acting ability or value, and yet Woodward Shakespeare brings quite a bit to the table each and every year.

They deserve more than a ‘regular’ review of the show…there must always be mention that these are volunteer actors, not professionals, and the sets/costumes/lighting is a miracle pulled off time after time.

Much kudos to S. Eric Day, Michael Peterson, Chris Campbell, Debra Bolen, JJ Cobb, the behind-the-scenes volunteers, and the cast of actors who bring such a difficult piece as Othello to the masses.

Good on you all, see you this weekend!

Donald Munro says:

Donald responds:

Actually, Stephen, I paid $11 (including service charge) to sit in a prime reserved seat.

You could say that Woodward Shakespeare is “free,” but it isn’t. It has a budget of several hundred thousand dollars annually, is supported by private sponsorships (that generate tax breaks), public grants and uses a taxpayer-funded facility to perform. I think everyone agrees that it’s a great situation for everyone all around: the city gets a new cultural institution and community actors get a chance to do what they love. But to say that “there should be no expectations of merit or acting ability or value” because it’s possible to see the show for free is a stretch.

It’s an apple-and-oranges thing, but if I had to generalize, I’d categorize Woodward Shakes as a solid community theater group in the same league as ART and Epic. Again, everything is relative. So are reviews.

In my view, this production of “Othello” did not quite measure up to last summer’s productions at Woodward Shakes.

One more thing: I think that in the company’s third season, we’re past the point at marveling at what a “miracle” it is that Shakespeare can be accomplished at Woodward Park. This company has publicly stated that it wants to become a preemninent, semi-professional theater organization in Fresno within five years — which at some point will involve bringing in Equity guest actors, etc. My guess is that rather than the organizers reeling at a “harsh” review — which I don’t think it was, by the way — they’re glad I take them so seriously.

All that said, Stephen, I look forward to your take on the show after you’ve seen it. I just hope everyone can stay cool!

Stephen says:

Several hundred thousand dollars annually??!?

Holy Crap!

Who knew??

Where on EARTH do they get that kinda money???

I take back most of what I said in deference to your well-made points. I, for one of many, have been lured in to the ‘let’s put on a show’ aspect of the thing.

I have always tried to make a point to volunteer each year (usually as an usher), to give back to these folks doing the ‘free theatre.’

Wow. I’m a bit shocked and surprised.

Thanks for the reporting.

suzanne says:

I was in Arcadia.
I did not get paid.
We were all volunteers.
In fact, I “volunteered” my own clothing for some scenes, as did other company members. Not really a miracle when dedication is involved.

Lisa says:

Stephen: to find out where WSF gets all that money, just look at the banners up in the amphitheater, check the website under “Corporate Sponsorships/Current Sponsors” or actually look at the program. All of the corporate sponsors will be listed. In addition, the organization received a sizable grant from the Harry C. Mitchell Trust to fund this season. WSF is a well-oiled non-profit machine, and the “let’s put on a show” aspect is either carefully cultivated or something you perceive on your own.

Stephen says:

Lisa, you got me. It was TOTALLY something I perceived on my own….mostly from following the WSF closely the first year, and only acting as an audience member the second year.

And Suzanne, I want every actor in town to know I do applaud the dedication. I am curious where the $15 a head goes, but it’s none of my business.

Wow. Good on WSF for scoring grants and sponsors. That’s a miracle in itself.

C says:

Let us examine the numbers for a moment to figure out that $15 a head. A fee which I believe I read Stephen didn’t even pay, at least not full price.

Let’s start with royalties. Well, for a musical, one is looking at something like $2000, sometimes more. Ok, that’s a musical, so cut it in half for kicks and giggles.

Sets can run from thrift store to rented. But a recent show had a more than decent set that probably went into the $3000 range. Considering the price of lumber, not so bad. Even at that cost, there were many items borrowed.

Costumes… , with a small cast and renting, one is looking anywhere from $600 to $1000. Of course that all depends on the type of show. Some more modern settings can sometimes count on the actors to bring pieces of clothing, but often more modern sets end up costing more and cut into the costume budget. Some of the more period pieces cost much more. And many times renting is cheaper than trying to make.

Programs, tickets, flyers, and posters cost at least another $500. If one is lucky enough to work out a deal with a local printer.

This is not even going into the fact that many companies need to hire out for their designers and tech directors. Such labor can run up to $1000 per individual.

We won’t even discuss the cost of maybe needing to rent equipment.Sound, lighting, building, etc.

Now, doing the math one is looking anywhere from Five to Ten thousand dollars, maybe more. Also, companies need to make enough money to pay for the upcoming show too. It’s a delicate balance of paying for the performance in rehearsal/ on stage as well as the pre production of the next.

Arcadia ran how long? A couple of weeks? 8 days? Let us pretend that Arcadia ran on the low end of the price scale and cost about $6000. At that amount, for an 8 day show, they needed at least 50 people in the audience per night simply to break even. This time of year the theater goers are a fickle group and may or may not have filled seats. Depending on what night one went there could have been a full house or almost no one. Let’s add to that the idea that most people don’t want to just break even. It would be nice to have a little extra for the next show, etc.

If the $15 a pop is too much for you, don’t go. Or, continue to associate with students and get them to go buy your tickets for you. But really, it takes more than pretty words to support local theater. It takes a full price tickent.

Lisa says:

Stephen:

I think you pose a good question.

When Theatre Ventoux produced “This Flattering Glass,” our ticket prices were $15 for general admission and $10 for students/seniors.

Over six performances, we averaged 30 tickets sold per night. Of our gross revenue, 30% was paid to Cal Arts Academy for rehearsal space, technical support and performance space; 30% went to us, which didn’t even come close to covering the production and start-up costs we incurred (that came out of our savings); the remaining 30% was given (not paid) to our cast and crew (which included two talented Computech students) as a small token of our appreciation for their time, talent and dedication to our project.

You have every right to know where your money goes. It is your money, after all. One of Ventoux’s goals is to be transparent, so ask away :)

Have a great weekend.

Donald Munro says:

A clarification: I checked with Feleena Sutton, who handles publicity for Woodward Shakes, and asked about the budget. She said it costs roughly $75,000 to put on each production. So for the year we’re talking an annual budget of closer to $150,000, not the “several hundred thousand” I estimated.

On another note: Did anyone go to last night’s (Thursday’s) performance of “Othello”? I’m just curious if it went off in spite of the heat. Did everyone hold up OK? Were the misting machines in place and working?

Chris Campbell says:

Thursday the misters and fans were in place, an intrepid audience showed up and it was actually fairly pleasant once the sun was off the concrete but the power was out throughout the Woodward Park area so we had to cancel. We plan to be there Friday and Saturday though.

JVC says:

It was an unfortunate call that needed to be made on last nights performance. The cast and crew, not to mention the audience, were all disappointed. Options were considered to continue the show, however, with lighting and safety as issues for the sword fights, the call was made to cancel last nights performance. As a cast member for the first time, I was humbled by the crowd that showed with the intent to participate with us in the show. Set aside the money question, the hiring of “guest-equity actors” and the shared misunderstandings…I am beyond the point of being thrilled at being a part of what is going on at Woodward Shakes. After living in Fresno for 4 years I finally made it to my first event of WSF last year. I was immediately drawn into the pleasant feel of the theatre and the way that our valley actors volunteer their time and talents to provide us with clean, quality entertainment. I had contacted Felena to volunteer this year to help with sets and found myself following a 15 year dream to get back into some kind of acting (high school experience). We do it because we love it. Come and enjoy a show. Bring a chair or blanket, bring a cooler or support the vendors that support the arts in Fresno…but come; and a great and sincere thank you to those who already have.

Stephen says:

Thanks, Lisa, for the clarification and nice response!

“C,” thanks for the, um, condescension. If your theatre costs are really going to be so high, in the $8,000+ range per show, it takes me back, wayyyy back, to my original comment. Maybe your company should choose more accessible shows to draw in slightly bigger crowds to help defray the costs.

I’m glad Theatre Ventoux was able to help out their actors, even a little bit.

I’m still reeling, along with Dan Pessano, after some guy decided to make a fuss about Good Company actors not being paid minimum wage for their every second of work. What a joke that was, and it almost collapsed our baseline community theatre!

Actors act from their hearts, not their pocketbooks, especially with community theatre offerings.

However, Roger Rockas for sure pays huge fees for musical royalties (as ‘C’ noted), they maintain several buildings, they have paid office staff, box office staff, they generally make all costumes and sets from scratch (unless they’re reviving a show, and even then they use stuff they made in the first place).

They have paid designers, production staff, directors, house managers, etc. And I would guess (just a guess) that they pay more for these staffers than anywhere else.

And tickets for a show there are just $25 dollars. Second Space tickets are $15 dollars. AND the actors are paid (albeit just barely….no actors in Fresno are ever paid enough, sadly).

So Good Company does shows that will fill the seats. Theatre Ventoux and Athlon and Epic are doing shows that mean something. Art doesn’t pay well in this town, unfortunately.

As a (now) commonplace theatre-goer, my initial note was to take Donald to task a bit for going seemingly easier on these new theatre companies who were charging exactly as much as the very established community theatre company in town.

Especially when I can see much of the work of these actors and companies for $5 dollars during the Rogue Festival.

I understand (better than most) about the costs of doing theatre…but I also understand, if you’re going to do a show that costs as much as Good Company, then Donald should review you along the lines of a Good Company show.

Which, overall, I think he thinks he does.

And I, as a theatre fan, am also going to hold you (in my head) to the same standards. The costumes in Arcadia were stunning and perfect. Same standard. The acting in Arcadia was (mostly) up to par. The set was as good as it could be without a storehouse. The lighting the same.

I know Dan Pessano has no time in his life whatsoever, but wouldn’t it be great (DAN??) if he could hold a series of teaching sessions on the business of theatre, a how-to start-up session, and maybe even be the leader of a theatre consortium where all the theatre companies can work together to build theatre as a whole in Fresno?

Okay, I’ve said way too much. Bye now.

Lisa says:

You’re quite welcome, Stephen.

On a final note regarding the cost to put up a show, I would be very surprised if ART spent $6,000 to stage “Arcadia.” None of us small companies can afford that kind of expense, and I don’t think any of us has a “patron” willing to foot the bill.

In the interest of transparency, “This Flattering Glass” cost roughly $3,000. This included start-up costs such as reusable set pieces and props, a color printer for flyers and programs, business cards, etc. All of the men in the show provided their own costumes, the younger women’s dresses were purchased on eBay and the other dresses either came from thrift shops or the Costume Dept. at Fresno Pacific. We also paid licensing fees for some of the music, and Jungle Webs for the awesome promotional videos. We ended up with a show that looked and sounded beautiful and was well-received by our audience, our peers and the local press.

As for future productions, we hope to break even next season, and maybe make a little profit in 2009.

For us, this is a hobby, albeit an expensive one we love dearly. For others, it’s a business. Either way, it’s still art.

One last thought on ticket prices, then I promise I’ll stop: if a small company charged less than the going rate for a production, wouldn’t it be perceived by the public that the show wasn’t as good as other, bigger companies, and therefore not worth the going rate? Just a thought….

By the way, who is “C?” An enigma wrapped in a mystery….

Stephen says:

You don’t have to stop, Lisa–actually, you’ve raised an interesting and debate-worthy question!

If a small company charges less than say, what Good Company charges, would it be perceived by the public as being a lesser show?

Great topic.

My take is a little bit more inside, but here it is: The acting pool is quite small in Fresno. There’s such a sharing of actors, that one can see Skyler Gray at Second Space OR at Children’s Musical Theatre. You can see Suzanne or Renee or Greg or Michael or Jennifer just about anywhere anyone needs a good actor.

The actors, for the most part, make the difference, as they’re what we see the most.

There’s a huge difference in behind-the-scenes staff, however. The directors and designers (aside from Chris Campbell) seem to stay with their own companies. Not much comparison between what CMT or Ben Holley can do with lights as opposed to the limited resources ART has.

But to the question at hand. Will the public think, say, Zombie Prom at $20 is a better show than The Shape of Things at $5 less, and those are whatever % better than WSF?

And are all of these better than the $7 charge for Marisol by the same company as part of the Rogue??

I think each piece will stand on it’s own, and in Fresno especially, will be perceived only after it’s been viewed and reviewed by Donald.

Word of mouth will decide the individual merit of each show.

Personally, price makes no difference to me…the familiarity of the show is important, the actors/director involved are important.

I will see Equus no matter the ticket price because I have directed the show and adore it.

I will see WSF to support ‘free’ theatre in Fresno.

I will miss Fiddler because I’m tired of it.

And I will weasel in to any other show I can at whatever price I can just to see what’s up.

I realize I haven’t completely answered the question. Other thoughts? Donald??

C says:

“One last thought on ticket prices, then I promise I’ll stop: if a small company charged less than the going rate for a production, wouldn’t it be perceived by the public that the show wasn’t as good as other, bigger companies, and therefore not worth the going rate? Just a thought….

By the way, who is “C?” An enigma wrapped in a mystery….”

And unfortunately shall remain so. Simply because: as fun as such discussions are in this forum, my dearest friends and cohorts are all part of different venues. My musings are my own and no reflection upon them.

However, going off your comment a bit…
But first I must agree with you. Not because I feel die hard theater fans are so fickle, but I find the general public to be so. Saddly, die hard theater goers are dying off or becoming bored with the second coming of the third revival. I think new theaters do need to put on the facade of playing with the big boys while offering something fresh.

The idea of doing “more attainable shows” also falls into the catagory of limiting a theater’s potential, or appearance of. If all one does is Shakespeare ( or G & S, etc. ) to avoid the royalties, then one is only known for a limited ‘type’ of show. If one does only ‘unknown’ plays one runs the risk of alienating parts of the population that wish to see old favorites. If one does only old favorites, one runs the risk of not bringing in a fresh audience. The latter is something I fear the Music Hall has fallen into. I respect what GCP has done, I shall always, but I fear that the freshness, the leap of faith that made it what it is, has been lost in the need to be successful. Should it be? Of course, but there seems to be no happy medium for them when it comes to what fills seats and what turns season ticket holders off. Miss Saigon was a beautiful tragedy. I was beside myself with the raw passion that went into the GCP production of that show. I was in mourning because of the small, cold adience I shared such an amazing experience with.

Also, depending on the venue, the make up of the set, and the type of show, larger audiences are not necessarily a luxury to be had. Some shows, no matter how wonderful, work better in a more intimate setting ( as you well know). Almost any Neil Simon comes to mind. I love nothing more than watching a new, young, actor take a bite out of Simon and finding it spark within him. It would be a shame to pass on Simon because such a show needs a more intimate setting and the company should sell more seats for less.

I do not believe that art need to always ‘pay well’ but I do know that it needs to at least pay for itself in order to keep breathing and reproducing. That is what is happening with our budding companies. They are simply trying to pay for the art. It’s nice to know that if they have extra, they pass it along. But an actor who signs on for the love of it expects, one would think, nothing more than the chance to perfect his craft and the audience expects that art to be shared with them. Such companies are a breath of fresh air in the world of remaking an already perfect musical movie. Perhaps I am jaded. Perhaps I’m not jaded enough. I think it matters not where that $15 went once I walk out with that show burning in me. Good shows can live in the soul, bad shows make for great discussion. As an audience member, I’ve already had my “Where did my $15 go?” question answered.

MCA says:

Actually Stephen,

After viewing a number of your comments I notice that aside from your willingness to say what you feel and wear your heart on your sleeve; you are very inaccurate in a number of your references as you throw out examples from production ‘X’ or production ‘Y’–namely where it concerns either dollar values or individual names (who they are and what they do) or even the thought process that may have played into someone deciding when, how or why they would produce a piece of theatre, and you site them from one place to another.

Do your homework before you offend someone or cause a rift with a person you may know. You may have already done both.

Most recently I see you have implicated Chris Campbell and Ben Holley by name in your attempts to validate your seemingly whemisical and non sensical passing of opinion…they both have helped with designs with WSF, ART and Epic…so I i think it would be best to clarify what you are trying to say here.

A lot of generalizing talk about all there is to see in Fresno from someone who clearly hasnt taken in all the details of what IS happening in Fresno’s theatre community or seen 50% of what it has to offer.

Offering your thoughts, ok thats cool…but lets no go holding court like the All Mighty if you havent seen Bo Diddly and say its Bo Jackson.

Each post reveals more and more that you know
less and less of what you are talking about and more that you just like to talk.

Annie Nomus says:

What should be expected out of theater in Fresno? Growth. As part of the theater community here, pride and ego are the downfall of every production. Directors playing favorites (it happens don’t fool yourself) and actors unwilling to improve in their craft creates mediocrity within the community. I’m not saying we are untalented, we have a lot of talent here. We can be fool of it and hinder the growth within ourselves, quality of production, and the community.

It is not like theater came to Fresno yesterday. I know some of the community has studied theater and worked outside the Valley and California. All good, but what you do on the stage matters most. There are members of the community who have never performed outside of Fresno, and they produce higher quality peformances than some who have extensive training, and they are better to work with. I get disappointed in the community sometimes when I see a bad choice when there were other options. Usually pride was the deterent. Shows are not usually awful or horrible in Fresno, just not great. We all have opinions like this when we see each others shows. We have expectations of ourselves. The theater community wants more because we know we can give more to Fresno.

Stephen says:

MCA:

Well said.

Anon says:

There has been much talk of the theatre “community” in response to this article, and I find it almost humorous to use such an implicitly positive word to describe the kind of “discussion” that has found its way to this forum. Sure, Annie Nomus, pride and ego are a destructive force in theatre, as in anything, but I think it goes far beyond the stage. Instead of simply supporting the arts, we have some people who are worrying about the price of shows and the people involved and a million other things that are taking away from the ultimate goal. I think we’re losing sight of what’s important. We are trying to bring the arts to our homes, to the people around us, to our “community.” We all have the same goal. Some of us are dedicated to bringing newer, more avant garde theatre to the area in a means that requires a nominal fee. Some of us are putting on non-profit Shakespeare in the park for free. But ultimately, we are all on the same page. We want to enhance, or perhaps even begin, the artistic experiences of our neighbors.

But, it seems almost impossible to do so without some sort of camaraderie instead of splintered hostilities in the group. Yes, everyone has their own ideas and processes on the business end, but that should in no way interfere with the art of it all. It’s all about respecting and supporting the people with who you share your ideals and endeavors.

Please, continue to chip in your fifteen bucks a few times a year to contribute to the companies in our town who are doing nothing but trying to bring culture and entertainment to our city. Keep it up, and maybe someday you’ll be seeing performances worth fifty bucks a seat for that same measly fifteen.

And thank you, Donald Munro, for holding our local artists to a standard that is not dependant on the price of the show, but instead on the merit of the endeavors. It is such expectations that will inspire us all to keep growing and striving to do better and accomplish more than we did the last go round.

And as a final note, sorry Annie Nomus, but yes, favoritism is a part of local theatre, just as it is in regional theatre and professional theatre and even Hollywood. Networking, nepotism, call it what you will, but people work with those they want to work with, whether for talent’s sake, or for their work ethic, or heck, because they think the person’s fun; any number of reasons can lead a person to a particular casting choice. In this business, you kind of have to get used to that. Maybe someone “green” gets the role because they not only have ability, but also have a method or a look or an attitude that the person casting really digs. I mean, really, do you think anyone other than Johnny Depp really has a chance with Tim Burton? Yes, Depp is overtly talented, but there is something about him aside from mere talent that is appealing for Burton’s style. It goes all the way to the top, Annie, and we all get to deal with both the positive and negative ends of it.

Donald Munro says:

Donald responds:

I’d like to jump in and make a few points if I may, folks.

The first is this: It’s gratifying that there are so many people who care so passionately about the state of local theater in Fresno. I think that bodes well for the future.

Regarding this blog: I’m not going to pretend that I’m the guru of blog moderating. All this is pretty new territory for me — as it is, indeed, for all of us, if you think of the small sliver of time we as a society have had to get used to the mores of an amazingly new form of communication. My editors tell me that the rules are simple: No libelous statements or personal attacks, blatantly off-topic discussions or Viagra ads (you won’t believe how much spam we get), and other than that, everything pretty much goes.

I will tell you, however, that I have more experience than most at writing for publication — which is, I guarantee you, is a very different thing that sitting around shooting the breeze with your pals or recording your innermost thoughts in a personal journal. I think that a lot of us forget this very basic fact of the Internet. (I’m certainly not just talking about the Beehive or the theater community.) As a culture, we’re leaving an amazing paper trail — if only electronically — of some of the more informal things we never before would have committed to black and white. I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, in fact, and I think that the more people who speak their minds, the better. But writing for publication does carry weight and consequences, even if it’s just posted on a computer screen rather than printed 150,000 times in The Bee.

Anyway, all that’s a prelude to the fact that I’ve received private email from some people concerned that this board is “tearing apart” the theater community and that the comments feature should be discontinued. I don’t quite know what to make of that.

I do know one thing: Theater people are people, after all, and as such are just as likely to bicker, complain, argue and snipe as the next group. But I don’t think they are any more likely to engage in favoritism, cattiness or ill will than any other group in the population at large. (Ever hung around a university department? How ’bout a church, for that matter?) I also know theater people to be incredibly big-hearted, artistic and generous. It might be naive of me to wish that I could nudge everyone toward those latter qualities. (And probably way boring, because art IS supposed to provoke, right?) But it’s worth at least a thought.

Happy theatergoing.

Stephen says:

I’m a bit surprised, tho I guess I shouldn’t be, that you are getting private emails, Donald, asking you to quell discussion.

Even sometimes heated discussion, or comments that may be misconstrued or misinformed can erupt into an overall positive reaction and growth.

I hear the vitriol every time I’m with those I’ve upset on this comment board every time I go out, but it doesn’t stop these three basic ideals I hold:

1. I still love the people

2. I adore the passion for the arts and theatre they are exuding.

3. And I think debate is good.

I think even an ill-informed ‘loudmouth’ like me can lead to eventual good in this format.

Let’s look at the positive: I’ve learned about the financing structure of WSF and Ventoux, both VERY illuminating. I’ve learned of the incredible amount of sharing/lack of talented people in Fresno arts.

It’s often said that my vitriolic style is annoying, and my intentions are rarely to annoy…unfortunately, I enjoy debate and discussion and use what I read and hear to eventually form opinions on the topics discussed.

I know it’s difficult when I vehemently argue with someone over a point, and then they will say something that makes me say “Oh. Oh. You’re right. Sorry.”

Sometimes the process of discovery, discussion, and passion can be a bit biting and painful, but overall? We’re all fans of local theatre. We all want to see it, create it, support it, and in your case, review it.

Out in the Tower tonight I enjoyed various discussions over Lisa’s great question: If a new company formed today and advertised a show charging, say, $8.00, would the public perception be that this new company isn’t as reputable or solid as Ventoux, Epic, ART, or even GCP, charging $15 per show?

And my original debate is still a fine topic: Should there be varying levels of scrutiny when it comes to reviewing theatre based on the level of professional talent, for-profit status, age of performers, or simply an enduring legacy?

I haven’t come to reasonable conclusions personally to either question, and therefore I continue to enjoy the conversations on this blog commentary.

I say keep it up, keeping in mind the rules of the Beehive and the editorial staff. But that’s just me…you know, the guy who uses his real name :-)

Greg Taber says:

Donald:

For what my thoughts are worth, the comments section should most certainly not be discontinued. No matter how rancorous, ill-thought, or downright silly some of the posts may get, they generate buzz about something we all seem to care deeply about, and that’s a good thing in my book.

If the free and open sharing of opinions and thoughts and questions is “tearing apart” the theatre community in Fresno, then it so very deserves to be torn apart because then it’s just one big make-nice facade of bs. Lisa nailed this one some time back: the reason theatre people never tell you what they really think about something you’ve done is because they don’t want you coming back and telling them what you really think about what they have done. It’s all about everyone’s little ego. I’ve been around university groups and teacher groups and church groups and a few others and I do think that theatre people are more catty and insecure and gossipy and manipulative…hell we’re downright mean. We’re also the most amazingly giving group of people it’s ever been my honor to associate with. But we’ll never be a real theatre community until we can put all of that garbage aside and actually talk to one another. Until then. we’re just a bunch of people doing our thing, collecting our 15 bucks, sniping at one another whenever we get the chance, and feeling oh so very clever for doing so.

Every group in Fresno (GCP, CMT, WSF, Aithon, Epic, J’Nerique, Ventoux, ART..I hope I haven’t missed anyone) has the potential to be something wonderful every time they put up a show and we owe it to one another to give each other all the support we can. The simplest way to do that is to just be honest with one another, because when we bs each other, all we do is perpetuate what we’re already doing…and we never get better, never grow. If you see something and love it, tell them you love it and tell them why. If you see something and hate it, be enough of a friend to be able to honestly tell them so, and tell them why.

Mike Peterson called me up after Arcadia and asked what I thought. Mike and I have known each other for a few years and he knows very well that if he asks me what I think, I’ll tell him. And I did. Now I don’t think that my opinion carries any more weight than anyone else’s, but it’s guaranteed to be honest. So Mike will take what he chooses from what I said and right, wrong, good, bad, or indifferent that will filter into what he does next…and that’s how we get better…that’s how we learn. That’s why we sought out people’s responses to This Flattering Glass…how else are going to improve? Someone walked up to me after the WSF staged reading of Richard III (which I was a part of) and asked me what I thought of it. I replied, “Don’t ask if you don’t really want to know.” This person smiled, said OK and walked away. That’s how we stay the same.

And that’s why this forum is important.

All I would ask is that we remember a couple of things. First, opinions are like various bodily parts…pretty much everyone has them. So it’s one thing to toss out “this is good”, “this is bad”, “blah blah blah.” It’s another thing to put forth a considered, honest, reasoned line of thought. The latter is far more valuable. Second, and this is just a pet peeve (one of many), if you’re not willing to put your name on what you say, if you’re not willing to stand by it publicly, then perhaps it’s better left unsaid. Just a peeve of mine.

On a personal note (as in one that directly benefits Theatre Ventoux) we encourage precisely this kind of discussion on our blog, Musings of Fire. So if you want another place to rant and rave…check it out.

And to all of us: let’s keep doing what we’re doing and strive always to do it better.

etonne-moi
g

C says:

I’ve seen the cattiness that Greg writes about, but I’ve seen the same people turn around and pull through for others. I mean, really pull through. I ‘speak’ on a production team’s level. So, maybe there’s more going on with directors, etc. that I am not aware of.
This is what keeps ME in the no name closet. Not for myself, I don’t give much of a hoot what others think of me. However, if my assocation with friends, family, co workers would cause them distress then it is simply not worth it to me. I would hate it if someone didn’t turn around and pull through for them, because of my musings.

Perhaps Anon and Annie Nomus feel the same or have had experiences, as performers,in which their unwillingness to put a shine on has gotten in the way of their craft. If they were sniping and snipping I could understand calling them out. But they, like myself, are simply forming thoughts in a discussion.

It is good and bad in such forums that one can go without ID. Bad for all of the foolishness and frightening behaviors of a few. Good for those who realize the real world doesn’t always respect an honest opinion and wish to not be unfairly punished by those too infintile to accept it for what it is, an opinion.

I don’t think there’s one thought expressed that would be “better left unsaid”. No one who posting under a the cover of online anonymity, in this discussion, seems to have an agenda to undermine one person or company. I take it they simply do not want to walk into an audition and be looked at as “that one didn’t like the last show, nope”. I would love to pretend this is not true, that such things are ignored in search for the right person for the right role, but we all know that is not the case. Sometimes, what makes us human gets in the way of understanding what makes the person in front of us human.
Just my “should have been left unsaid” .02.

Annie Nomus says:

Thank you Greg for being the frank man you are because you are one of the most talented actors in Fresno. Thank you for trying something different.

The good and bad of theater, yes, I do realize it. The good and bad has happened to me. I have seen worse happen to others who are more talented than me. What it boils down to is trust with companies. As actors, in Fresno, performing is a hobby. You can not make a living off acting here. We work for free. Even at GCP, the gas money doesn’t match the time, stress and energy you must give up at times. Yes, we volunteer and don’t expect or even care for payment; but in order for us to return, respect and equality are needed. Companies want a broad talent pool to pull from, then they can’t have rules for some and rules for others. You discover this about companies when you have worked with them for a while. These new companies are starting with a clean slate. We act here in Fresno because we love theater not to survive.

Stephen says:

Greg, C, and Annie Nomus have proven what Donald has said, and I reiterate:

Conversation is good.

More important is what Greg implied: We all love the art, we all love each other (in a roller-coaster sort of way), and the really important thing is to support each other.

Much as many folk will beef about my beefing, please note that I do try to make as many shows as I can. If I can’t attend, I try to volunteer. If I can’t volunteer, I try to offer money, myspace friendship, or any other method of support.

I don’t bad-mouth companies, but, like Greg, I will give my honest opinion about shows, performers, and (mostly) directors.

I will spout about casting choices, lighting set-ups, bad Saroyan sound, forced direction and diva-like personalities.

No matter what, tho…I’ll be there. I will support our local theatre whenever and wherever I can.

You readers should also (tho I suspect most here already do).

Note from the comments here that everyone (even WSF) operates with the help of unpaid personnel, unpaid actors, and scores of volunteers. If you can’t see a show, at least go help paint the sets. If you can’t make Epic’s fundraising Garden Party (it was delightful), at least usher a show.

And whenever, wherever, however you see an actor or director or ANYONE you saw working with or on a show you liked, at least buy them a drink or dinner.

Goodness knows they deserve it.

KJ says:

To say that the price of a ticket is indicative of the quality of a show is ludicrous.

You pay the same 10 bucks to watch “Letters from Iwo Jima” as you would to watch “Scary Movie 11.” Does that say these two movies are equal in quality?

If you paid $500K for an old Pinto, it would still be a Pinto, not a Rolls Royce.

Raising your ticket prices does not make people think you have a good show. It turns people away. Anyone remember the ticket prices for the Liberty Dance of Henry Sparrow? How long did that show/theatre last?

If you charge me 10 bucks to see your play, I won’t think your play is of any less quality. Rather, I will think I am getting a heck of a deal for live theatre, and if I enjoy your show, I will be more likely to tell my friends to go see it, instead of telling them it’s overpriced.

P.S. I love this exchange of ideas, and I would advise everyone to support wonderful products like Viagra.

Don says:

Okay can I start off by saying these blogs are incredibly interesting while no longer being about Othello.

So first for Othello. i 100% disagree with you Donald. i feel this is far and away the best show for WSF yet. In fact it shouldn’t even be seen as their best show but rather as their new beginning. Before it was about “let’s throw together a show” but by bringing in qualified directers they have made it about “Lets entertain our audience”.

James Taylor’s Othello was strong and passionate. Some of his moments such as threatening Iago were the best in the show. Elliot Montgomery’s Roderigo was hilarious and sympathetic, by far the best character on stage. The ensemble did great which is something Fresno tends to look over. (meaning most shows don’t focus on ensemble and people are often on stage with no purpose). Villanueva however played one of the dumbest Iago’s I’ve ever seen which in turn made everyone else on stage dumb for not knowing that he was a villain. Isn’t it more effective if the audience is the only one privy to that information.

The play built up a nice momentum only to be shot in the foot by the “Willow” scene between Desdamona and Emilia, which made the women in the show appear marginal. Isn’t this supposed to be right before the climax. However, with all these things in mind the show was Highly entertaing even if I would have had to pay twenty dollars to see it. These are knit picky notes. It far surpassed anything they’ve ever done in the past let alone any shakespeare in fresno in the past five years.

Now to the cost. Many company’s such as Epic, ART, Ventoux and others are without large bank accounts and can do shows just fine. Fresno State has a company run by students that I believe I read runs off of a budget of less than $1,000. So my question is where does this $75,000 per show go to. It would seem that with that kind of money, actors, directors, crew members etc. should be getting paid. It would seem that they should be brought in from outside our theatre community to elevate the performance level. These are all things to think about. As a person who has spent many years working in and around the theatre I can tell you, you can put up a great show with a tiny budget as you can with a large one. It just changes the style of show you set out to accomplish. I do mean you can still do shakespeare its just going to be rougher in concept. Not as pollished.

Thirdly, shouldn’t this company, which took huge strides this year, establish themselves more firmly with Shakespeare before trying to move on to Miller, Williams and others. Lets continue taking small steps before we try to jump to the moon.

I think it’s a great thing this company provides for fresno’s theatre community and I love that being free it can be brought to lesser priveledged audience members as well. I hope they continue to improve and I can’t wait to see their next show.

Donald Munro says:

Donald responds:

Hello all, thanks for your comments. I’m not sure how many people are reading this far down this thread, but for those who are — it’s been very interesting! I’m glad to know that most people don’t feel the comments function should be disabled. I think we’re all big boys and girls, and we should be able to get along just fine.

At the risk of making this thread “War and Peace” length, I’d like to get back on topic and address two more points: ticket price and the Woodward Shakes budget.

First, I think the question of ticket price is very interesting and is probably ripe for some economic grad student at Fresno State to really study the situation. I don’t think ticket price is the most important factor that people consider when going to see a play — that is, unless the ticket cost is prohibitive. (And just what defines that term is subjective, of course.) If a show falls somewhere between $10 and $20, I think most theatergoers are OK with that. However, if you get up into the $25-plus range, I think it does influence the audience. Getting into the $50 and above range, you’re looking for professional theater. The question is: Would tons more people have gone to “Arcadia,” say, if the ticket price had been $5 instead of $15. I don’t think so — unless that cheaper ticket price could have been used as an effective marketing tool.

I sort of equate theater tickets to airline tickets — both are a commodity that have a definite shelf life. (What’s the economic term for that?) We all know that people pay wildly different prices for a seat on the same flight, and the same happens a lot with theater depending on supply and demand. I’ve paid as little as $20 for a Broadway show (rush tickets) and as much as $110. (There are lots of discounts available on Broadway if you know where to find them.) People are willing to pay extra for exact seating and the knowledge that you’re guaranteed a spot if the performance sells out. The problem is that it takes time and money just to figure out a pricing structure that can maximize occupancy. We aren’t big enough to support a half-price tickets booth here in Fresno. But I’m wondering if something could be done online to replicate it?

Regarding the Woodward Shakes budget: I talked further with board member Chris Campbell, who explained: “Much of that $75,000 per show estimate is in kind services–materials donated for the stage, all my tools to build the stage, equipment and props loaned from various sources, Starbucks product for us to sell, etc so the actual cash budget is much much less. Of course, as you pointed out, the biggest contribution is from the City for the space itself.”

From me: That’s an important distinction to make, and it’s my fault for hearing general talk about a “budget in excess of $100,000″ and not clearly understanding what that means. (It’s probably better if the festival didn’t quote that $75,000 figure, which it often does, without clarifying that much of that is in in-kind donations.) Still, even if you’re talking about donated supplies and services, it’s a significant economic impact.

wettowel says:

…way back in the yarns a couple of things were stated (with possible answers now given.)

WSF got their grants written and secured by Jag Bennet.
-Find Jaguar let him write your grant for you, (pay the man well,) and you’ll have your coins secure.

This is also the first year that C.P.Sweeney, (the woman who created and brought this thing to fruition,) is no longer with WSF… my guess is that it shows.

C says:

Don, I believe you’re writing about the Experimental Theater Company. If that is the case, yes they have a very small budget because they actually pay for next to nothing. I believe they benefit from using the supplies, tools, etc. from the Fresno State scene shop. So to compare them to a company that must purchase all of the lumber, paint, tools, costumes, ( if something new or different is needed) and royalties is highly unfair to the other theater companies.

Mr. Munro, I apologize for being part of the machine that has created the novel. Yet, such discussions are exciting and educational and I tend to eat them right up.

marcel says:

Nice thread. A lot of “Ahh hah” moments by and from many. It is gratifying to note the passion that everyone has poured out here. This tells me (despite some sniping, favoritism or the odd public silent protest inherent in theatre circles) that the state of the medium is actually healthy. There used to be a lot more talk than do. Let us keep the “do” going as there are many more miles to go before we sleep. Sure, as we journey this road together there will be disagreements over how we should negotiate the next bend… but a lively journey beats a boring lonely one. The real challenge now is to gather new pilgrims and hopefully this discussion with the efforts of those who dare has planted a seed of conversion among some to at least committing to the journey.

Kudos to all on your input. Cheers!

Cindy Wathen says:

I just wanted to say thank you for this fascinating discussion. I find it very worthwhile. I’m a lifelong theater goer, and was absolutely blown away at the quality of Arcadia.

Now that I know how much it costs to put on these events, and that many of these highly talented and dedicated actors and participants don’t get paid, it makes me feel honored to pay $15 for a production. And I think it would be really edifying for the public to know why prices are what they are. I think less folks would complain about the price if they knew how expensive things really are.

And really, I hate to see actors not get paid. I don’t think we should keep expecting artists to work for nothing just because it’s “art.” They give us such an important benefit. Let’s vote with our dollars and see if we can’t get more of them paid.

Heck, I would be more than willing to pay a ticket price for WSF knowing that the funds would go to paying the actors, volunteers and future projects. It seems strange to me that their payment isn’t a priority when they could seemingly easily charge a $1 or $2 for admission.

Thanks for the discussion!

~C

Ben Holley says:

Because my name has been thrown into this topic (which I didn’t even know about until Chris Campbell told me about it.) I thought I would respond.

For those of you that don’t know me. I own and operate a lighting company in the Fresno/Clovis. I also work for CUSD as the lighting and sound designer for all the shows that come into the MET. So believe me, I know how much it takes to put on a show of any size.

I have done work with or for WSF, CMT, ART, FCC, CSUF. Yes, I do rent equipment to them but my company and I always give back as much as we can (and still be in business.) Ask Eric Day, Chris Campbell, Adam Meredith, Joel Abels or any one I have work with. My love of lighting came from theater. So when ever I can give back I will. Every other group GCP, Aithon, Epic, J’Nerique, Ventoux, has never approached me to work on any productions.

All this talk of money!
When I designed for Tempest (ART). I was brought in by Adam Meredith (long time friend/ best man at my wedding) I told him that he and I had my full equipment at our design disposal for not one cent.
I hope, for those of you that experience it enjoyed it (I fell some of the best work I have ever done.) From what I understand we still lost money. But that wasn’t what it was all about.

I Hope that some day we all get paid for the work we put in. (i.e. TECH, actors, and directors) But for know when you see us out, a pat on the back, hand shake, or a drink for know will have to do (and believe me that will do!)

Ben

suzanne says:

Ben,
I did see Tempest and absolutely LOVED the lighting. It was some of the best I’ve ever seen, anywhere. :)

I’ve never gone into a show expecting to get paid. I have been paid at some places, not at others, many times gotten the GCP $6, and have also acted for no pay at a place that did pay certain “others” in the cast. All here in Fresno/Clovis. I have only performed in them to enjoy something I love and to improve myself as an artist.

I look forward to seeing Othello this weekend (hopefully!). I’ve worked with Danielle Jorn before and am seriously impressed by her talent. I’m certain she won’t disappoint, at $3 or whatever.

S. Eric Day says:

Wet Towel
You are misinformed and need to do better research. Go to the County office across from the Down Town Club and research Woodward Shakespeare Festival and see what you find.
S. Eric Day

wettowel says:

…psssst…

-guys, if you volunteer for the Rogue?

-you not only get all the nasty ‘LOST’ energy drinks (which taste like pediatric penicillen, and keep you awake for days,) that you want.

-but they buy brunch the day after it’s all over at the godzilla chinese buffet over on Marks and whatever…
(you get to go back and raid the pot-stickers and melon as much as you want…
-AND, unlike WSF?,
-you don’t have to wear a corset
(unless you want to.)

huh? HUH?

Stephen says:

Ben Holley = best lighting guy in town. Not only are your designs amazing, but you have ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS been kind, accessible, and generous to work with whenever I’ve needed you.

Jenna Coulombe(sp?) = best theatre light designer in town. She is resident designer for Children’s Musical Theatreworks. She also can’t get it done without Ben Holley.

I still rent tons from LiveLight, and they, too, have been very helpful and wonderful to work with (I need them whenever I’m doing a bigger production).

Glory to the designers!!!

What do I know? 24 years light design, BA theatre directing/light design.

Cindy Wathen says:

Ben & Suzanne,

Great comments. And I think that’s the ultimate goal–that the artists should get to chose whether or not to accept or decline a payment. But I wonder how many of your colleagues would like to receive a payment, but might be afraid to speak out on the issue.

I had an idea to toss out there. For those productions that won’t at least break even, what if there was some type of donation box near the ticket office that explained that the production was an all-volunteer event and that if folks wanted to make a donation that would go directly to the actors or volunteers, they could.

I suggest this because often something important happens when an artist gets paid for their work. It’s not just a money issue. It’s validation and encouragement that often motivates them to keep pursuing their profession and want to perform on a higher level. I’ve seen it happen with many writers who often frame their first check and hang it in their office to remind themselves that they’re legitimate and are capable of pursuing their dream and accomplishing even more.

Just tossin’ out ideas.

~C

Lisa Taber says:

Saw “Othello” Saturday. My thoughts:

LOVED the costumes! Bravo Debora!

The set was blah, although the slip stage was interesting.

We chose to take advantage of the “free” part of Shakespeare in the Park and did not purchase a folding chair for $10. Because of this, I had a difficult time hearing the actors, even with their portable mics.

The acting was ok. Danielle Jorn, Miles Villanueva and Jaque Babb were very good.

Over all, I thought “Ohello” was better by far then last season’s “Macbeth,” but not as entertaining as “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

A final thought: the chairs cost $1.10 each at Bargain Party Rental and WSF is charging $10 for “Premier Seating.” What’s up with that? My advice: wait until the show starts, then move into one of the empty chairs.

C says:

Lisa, you don’t see that as stealing? I certainly do. Perhaps you think the $10 is too much to pay, and that’s ok. But to wait and then steal the seats once the show starts ( not to mention getting up and moving around while there is a live performance going on) is unbelievably rude and baseborn. If the company chooses to move people to empty seats, it is their space to give, but it is not up to an already seeing a show for free audience member to steal from the company.
It’s disheartening to know that there are people who not only find this to be OK, but encourage others to do the same.
It is not an issue of whether the seats are filled or not, it is an issue of taking something one has not paid for.

Lisa Taber says:

Actually, C, I don’t. I think it’s more dishonest to tout something as “free” then mark up a chair 1000% to make a buck.

As a matter of fact, Thornton Davidson did invite the audience to occupy the empty seats. Perhaps I should have reworded my suggestion: shortly before the show starts, after the playing of “Name That Shakespeare Play,” you will be invited to move in and occupy the empty chairs, except for the ones marked “Reserved.” We would have, but didn’t realize the sound issues we would encounter. I do consider it rude and baseborn ( I so rarely get to use that word in a sentence! Thank you for the opportunity!) to move during a performance, so we waited until intermission and left.

Renee N says:

C:
I went to “Othello” the opening weekend. I did not buy/reserve a seat. There was an introduction made at the beginning of the show where those who were not in the audience paid seating were given the option to move lower to the reserved chairs. The Company offered, so I partook, and I don’t think it was stealing.

C says:

No Renee’ in that case, I do not either. And I am sorry, Lisa, if that was the case. When the company offers, it is in no way stealing.

Donald Munro says:

Donald checks in: Glad we got the free seats thing cleared up. The rule: Don’t move until you’re told you can.

It sounds like it’s worth sitting in the center section just in terms of sound. And in such a big venue, I think it’s definitely worth it to sit in the first few rows in terms of actor impact. Sounds like the most economical approach is to make a free reservation in advance (it’s very easy), and then if there are seats available to move up if invited by the theater staff. Of course, you always run the risk that those seats will be filled — which would be a good thing, of course!

I’m curious about attendance: Were there pretty good crowds this past weekend? And was there any conflict with the large religious gathering scheduled for the same time across the way in the park’s activity center? (Because of a scheduling error, both Shakespeare and the religious crusade were booked into the same venue, and there was some concern about confusion.) I wonder if any repentant sinners wound up in the wrong place and started cheering on Iago.

jayparks says:

Sometimes, I’m the guy that invites the audience to move into the unoccupied seats. The festival does this so that everybody can see and hear the play to the best degree possible.

Crowds were fairly large last weekend (more than 300 Saturday night, I think, and only slightly less Thursday and Friday) and with six more performances of Othello left in the run, we’re hoping that number will increase.

If you have seen the show and enjoyed it, thank you! – please tell a friend about it! And if you haven’t, we hope to see you there this weekend!