'Othello' caters to modern audiences

Fullerton College Hornet  - Vijay Shah - Friday, October 12th, 1990
Othello shakes hands with Cassio while lago looks on

Don't expect to see men dressed in tights, fighting with swords, in the theatre department's upcoming performance of "Othello -The Willam Shakespeare tragedy is presented with age-old themes shown in a new light. .

Instructor Tom Blank, who teaches acting styles, ' directing and musical theater, took i the directing reins of "Othello" because he wanted to do the play for a long time. But, there was another reason. Working with some, of the theatre department's best students, Blank was inspired to do the play. "I picked a show for this circle of students," he said. So far, the cast has pulled through for Blank."They're all working very hard to make the characters come alive."

It's a challenging task, considering Blank's version of "Othello". Blank has re staged the classic Elizabethan tragedy in the light of the modem day. The story mixes interracial romance and political intrigue into the current Middle Eastern crisis. Blank pointed out that the play takes place on Cyprus, which is just a stone's throw away from Kuwait.

"Othello" is one of Shakespeare's most celebrated plays, the tragic story of the Moorish pririce Othello, his relationship with the lovely Desdemona, and the systematic destruction of it at the hands of the selfish Iago.

"These guys are sent over there [to Cypress]," said Blank," they have no standard of reality. There are no guidepost for something to go over the edge."

With this in mind, Blank set out to redo the play in a modem setting.

"Directors are challenged to find a context to give it that shimmer that it was presented with 400 years ago.< Some of the themes of 'Othello'; trust in a relationship, thirst for power that feeds off itself, and the loss of contact through isolationism, means you can take fairly good people and a sociopath in a foreign atmosphere and you have an unfamiliar way to present the play."

"We did make some cuts in the play," said Blank, but the language and the names were kept intact. "I hope it will be a very interesting mechanism of contrasting the contemporary visual against the classical dialogue."

Blank feels that the modem imagery serves another purpose: it facilitates the audience. "If [the audience] gets lost with the words, they always know visually what's going on."

The long-time instructor feels very confident about success for the project he is directing. ''I wouldn't have picked it if l didn't know that, " said Blank, fully assured.

Blank complements the cast for the hard work they have put into the production. "The cast has covered this challenge well. But, we can't underestimate the kind of challenge it is ... a project of this nature."

Blank should handle it well. In the 10 years he has spent as an instructor here, Blank has tackled productions such as last year's "Dracula" and "Much Ado 'About Nothing", another Shakespearean drama set in the ragtime era.

Blank feels that the best thing about doing "Othello" in a new light is the challenge. ''It's certainly the most challenging thing I've ever done here."

Anyone interested in seeing how well Blank has overcome the challenge should stick around and see the end of "Othello". "The final picture tells it all," he says.