'Desdemona' reimagines roles of three Shakespearean women

It’s Desdemona redux for SUNY Oswego theatre students—this time she’s the vixen her husband thought she was—in “Desdemona, A Play About A Handkerchief” previewing Thursday, Feb. 28, and running March 1 to 3 in Tyler Hall’s lab theatre.

Shakespeare’s “Othello,” with Desdemona as his dutiful but wrongly accused wife, inspired last fall’s “Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet,” a fast-paced farce from Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald.

Rehearsal image from Desdemona, A Play About A Handkerchief />Now comes Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel’s bawdy but more feminist take on Desdemona and two other characters, Iago’s scheming wife Emilia, who is also Desdemona’s maid, and Bianca, a prostitute who dreams of marriage.

“It’s a wild romp,” said director Joan Hart Willard, adjunct instructor of theatre at SUNY Oswego. “But I also hope the audience comes away with the depth and sensitivity. I hope people come away with the idea of how women were trapped in their roles in patriarchal societies.”

Willard, who is also a playwright and actor, cast theatre students Dana Ernst in the title role, Robin Rubeo as Emilia and Clare Bawarski as Bianca. The understudies for Emilia and Bianca, respectively, are Sierra Meisser and Jacqueline Shikora.

In the play, Desdemona gossips about the sexual adventures Othello suspects her of—and many more. Emilia, a prudish confidant, spices the storyline in a game of cat and mouse with her employer.

“The handkerchief almost has a role in itself,” Willard said. “Of course, it’s missing and Desdemona is searching for it frantically, while Othello (offstage) becomes angrier and angrier and extremely jealous.”

Curtain times are 8 p.m. for the Feb. 28 preview, 8 p.m. for March 1 and 2 performances and 2 p.m. for Sunday, March 3. The play is recommended for ages 16 and above. Preview tickets are $5; run-of-play tickets, all general admission, cost $13 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students). Tickets are available at all SUNY Oswego box office locations, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 312-2141.

Parking is included in the cost of the ticket, and is available in Lot 6 in front of Culkin Hall and Lot 18 at the rear of the parking lot behind Hart and Funnelle halls.

The director and actors have a sequel to the performances in the lab theatre: a trip to Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe—billed as the largest arts festival in the world—this August to present the production again.

“I love teaching at Oswego,” Willard said. “The students here really learn what it takes to commit to the craft.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Shakespeare re-imagined—SUNY Oswego’s theatre department gears up for its next production, “Desdemona, A Play About A Handkerchief,” previewing Feb. 28 in Tyler Hall’s lab theatre and running March 1 to 3. Directed by theatre faculty member Joan Hart Willard, the play features three female characters that originated in Shakespeare’s “Othello” trying to break free of the lives dictated for them in a patriarchal society. From left are students Robin Rubeo, as Iago’s wife Emilia, who is also Desdemona’s maid; Dana Ernst, who does a sexually adventurous take on the title role; and Clare Bawarski as Bianca, a prostitute dreaming of marriage.

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(Posted: Feb 14, 2013)

Tags: theatre, theater, desdemona, a play about a handkerchief