Promotional poster for Ohtello. Image courtesy of the American Shakespeare Center.
By Anna Püsök
The American Shakespeare Center has visited Sewanee every year since 2018. In a normal setting, they would give two plays in Sewanee as a part of their nationwide tour. This semester, however, because of the current situation and COVID-19 regulations, the in-person play couldn’t happen, but Sewanee came up with an alternative solution.
This time, students could see the live screening of Othello in Guerry Auditorium. To make the event as safe as possible, the attendance was limited to fifty people. The screening was only available for Sewanee students, faculty, and staff, and people had to reserve their spots before the event.
When asked what she thought of this format, India Tisdale (C’21), who has been attending the ASC plays in the past years, said “The thing about Shakespeare is that for a lot of people it’s hard to understand for the first time. Luckily, I read Othello before in class, I understood the plot, but I think the technology was a bit hard for people to understand, and then, with the fact that people already have a hard time understanding Shakespeare, I think it was a little hard for people who haven’t read Othello before to understand what was going on.”
Tisdale further explained, “I think a lot of people don’t know or forget that one of the catchphrases of the ASC is ‘We do it with the lights on,’ so the lights are normally on, people would sit closer to the stage, around the stage or even on the stage, and it used to be more of an interactive experience.”
In previous years, one of the most unique parts of the ASC plays was the fact that students could sit on the stage. Tisdale said, “When I was sitting on stage last year, the actors would throw things on you, or sit on your lap or do something crazy like that, and you felt very much more caught up in the show. I think this time, it definitely felt more of watching a movie, rather than taking part in the play. “
Another safety change was that the seats were spaced out, so students could keep the six feet for the whole time of the play. Tisdale said, “I felt very safe about it [the way the event was organized]. We were all really spread out in Guerry. It felt kinda strange to be that way,” finished Tisdale.
When asked if she recommends going for another screening like the Othello one, Tisdale said, “I think it’s a little harder right now to find things to do on campus, and even if you have never been to a Shakespeare play before, I think that, there is always time to learn more about him and his work. I love Shakespeare, so I highly recommend it.”
Later in the semester, another performance will be screened, and the ASC will give ten private classroom workshops this fall at the Blackfriars Playhouse.