Grappling with Othello in Contemporary American Theatre
Friday, April 2, 2021 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Our guests are Eric Ting, Artistic Director of California Shakespeare Theater & Obie-award-winning director, and Aldo Billingslea, actor, former Artistic Director of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, & Professor of Theatre at Santa Clara University, where he has also served as Associate Vice Provost of Diversity and Inclusion.
Cal Shakes’ 2016 version of Othello, was produced in the wake of ongoing high-profile killings of black men in the United States. Mr. Ting and Mr. Billingslea found themselves suddenly more aware of the ways in which the play could recuperate or exploit racist and misogynist images of black men. They wanted to provide an opportunity for audiences to reflect on how art can potentially recuperate racial tensions in our society. As a result, they produced the play with Brechtian “interruptions,” where the actors broke the fourth wall to talk to the audience as themselves in monologues reflecting on the action of the play during key acts of violence in the play that were not staged. This was also Eric Ting’s first production as the new Artistic Director of Cal Shakes, and first Asian American Artistic Director of the company. Ting also directed the production, and Billingslea starred in the Othello. They will discuss their process and audience reaction.
Obie Award-winning director Eric Ting’s work lives at the intersection of art and community practice. Artistic Director of California Shakespeare Theater since 2016, Ting has remained deeply committed to the development of new and diverse voices for the theater, directing works (many of them world premieres) by The 1491s, Toshi Reagon, Lloyd Suh, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Sam Hunter, Marcus Gardley, Aditi Kapil, Kimber Lee, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Kenneth Lin, Kristofer Diaz, Lauren Yee, Anna Deavere Smith, and others. Ting’s work has been seen across the United States, as well as internationally, including Singapore, France, UAE, Holland, Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bali. He is a multiple-grant recipient, including a TCG New Generations Future Leaders fellowship, a Jerome & Roslyn Milstein Meyer Career Development Prize, a NEFA National Theater Project grant, a MAP Fund Award, and he was named one of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ 2019 YBCA100. He has served on numerous grant and fellowship panels including the Mellon Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, the Jerome and McKnight Foundations, the NEA, TCG, PONY and the Alpert Awards. Ting is a proud member of the SDC Board.
Aldo Billingslea is the Father William J. Rewak, S.J. Professor of Theatre Arts at Santa Clara University. Favorite acting credits include Paul Robeson in Paul Robeson, Ira Alderidge in Red Velvet as well as: Black Odyssey, Othello, Spunk, Lady Windermere’s Fan and War of the Roses (California Shakespeare); Dry Powder, This Is How It Goes and Collapse (Aurora Theatre); Othello, The Hairy Ape, Splittin’ the Raft, and In the Red & Brown Water (Marin Theatre Company); The Elephant Man and Radio Golf (TheatreWorks); And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi (Cuttingball Theatre); T-Bone and Weasel (Sacramento Theatre Company); Piano Lesson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Blancs, Cymbeline, (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Other credits include the: California, Dallas, Folger, Illinois, Oregon, Marin, San Francisco, Utah, and Arabian Shakespeare theatres.