Sunday, September 8, 2019

Behind the Character: CASSIO

Michael Cassio is a Florentine soldier described as a smooth talking, handsome young man. A man of courtesy and theoretical learning, Cassio is one of Othello's chief lieutenants.
For Shakespeare On Tour 2019,
Cassio is portrayed by Sam Cheeseman.

There is a supposed rivalry between Cassio and Iago, who claims to resent him because Othello chose Cassio as lieutenant, in spite of the fact that Cassio has “never set a squadron in the field” and lacks practical battle knowledge (Act I, Scene 1).

Unlike Emilia and Roderiga, Cassio is not a new character created by Shakespeare for Othello, but appears in Cinthio’s Un Capitano Moro, where Shakespeare took inspiration for the play. In Cinthio’s story, however, Cassio’s counterpart does not have a name, but is referred to as the “Squadron Leader”.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

NEShakesEDTalks: This week - Othello Costumes!

We are continuing our Othello On Tour series and talking with Lindsay Pape, who has worked with Nebraska Shakespeare for 10 years, both On the Green and On Tour. She shares with us some of the unique challenges of designing the costumes for Othello On Tour.

Join us every Thursday for a new video about Shakespeare, theatre, and 21st century life.

Click HERE for more videos from the series

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Upcoming Public Performances

Monday, September 2, 2019

Soul of Wit: Roshni Desai

For this week's brief interview series, we're sitting down with Roshni Desai, who will be touring Nebraska with us for the 2019 Shakespeare On Tour production of Othello.

"Brevity is the soul of wit" - Hamlet

Soul of Wit is a brief interview series with the artists and artisans of Nebraska Shakespeare.  Listen to more interviews HERE

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Behind the Character: OTHELLO

Othello is a general in the Venetian forces who, as a foreigner, has won this position through superiority in combat and war strategy. Othello is intelligent, courageous, a skilled leader, and respected by the Venetian troops. For this reason, when Cyprus is threatened by the enemy, the Duke turns to “valiant” Othello to lead the defense (Act I, Scene 3). 

Othello as “Other” 

In the 2019 Shakespeare On Tour
production, Othello is portrayed by
Roshni Desai.
When the play starts, Othello has been living among the cultured people of Venice, a stark contrast in lifestyle to the years spent on campaigns for the military. Othello’s hard work has won the chance at a comfortable life surrounded by intellectual conversation, art and society, and Othello’s social circles have evolved to include the wealthy and influential, like the senator Brabantio. Othello sees possibilities that were not available before and Othello’s growing appreciation for sophistication may be the reason Cassio, a young student of military knowledge and a “great arithmetician,” is appointed to be Othello’s lieutenant though he has little actual on-the-field experience (Act I, Scene 1). More on Brabantio and Cassio in future posts

Just as Othello encounters aspects of life in Venice that are different and new, the Venetians see Othello as foreign due to a difference in origin, history, and color of skin. Thus, Othello lives constantly among, but separated from, other people though they all share the same religion and values. Othello’s skin color plays a role in others’ interactions and the way they view and speak about Othello.

The other characters in the play are always called by name, lending to their being seen as individuals independent of their physical traits. Othello, in contrast, is many times referenced by race, most commonly as “The Moor” (interestingly, references to Othello by name in the full text range in the thirties, despite being the main character and protagonist. Instances of Othello being referenced as “The Moor” nearly double that).

While it is generally the less noble characters who use race to disparage Othello, others like Brabantio and Desdemonan are drawn in by Othello’s exotic qualities. “[Brabantio] loved me, oft invited me,/Still questioned me the story of my life/From year to year” (Act I, Scene 3).

Duality and Downfall

Othello is teeming with themes of duality: black versus white, appearance versus reality, good versus evil, love versus hate. For almost every concept that Shakespeare introduces, there is also a direct opposite. One of Othello’s most worthy qualities is integrity; “Certain, men should be what they seem” (Act 3, Scene 3). This is a direct juxtaposition to the double-dealing Iago. More on Iago in a future post.

Like most of Shakespeare’s characters, Othello is not without complexities. Rather than a one-dimensional representation of a single trait, Shakespeare made Othello full of internal dualities that are in constant conflict. 

Honesty and Trust

Othello’s steadfast integrity gains the respect of the community, but leads to Othello’s faith that others share this lofty ideal and are worthy of trust; “The Moor is of a free and open nature,/That thinks men honest that but seem to be so” (Act I, Scene 1). This conviction may be what makes Othello an easy target for Iago’s conspiracies, but also forces Iago to work harder against Othello’s constant search for the good in others. “I think my love be honest and think he is not;/ I think that thou art just and think thou art not./ I'll have some proof” (Act III, Scene 3). 

Pride and Jealousy

Another of Othello’s dualities is a conflicting mixture of pride with the perception of being lowlier than others. It is often said that Othello’s fatal flaw is jealousy. But what constitutes jealousy? Dr. Darlene Lancer points out that while both stem from feelings of inadequacy, envy is wanting what others have whereas jealousy is the fear of losing what we already have (Lancer). This in mind, Othello’s marriage and military position are points of pride for the general, but also serve as the foundation for Othello’s jealousy and eventual tragic fall.

These dual feelings of pride and inadequacy affect how Othello navigates a place in Venetian society. Pride shows itself early when Brabantio accuses Othello of tricking Desdemonan into marriage. Othello claims privilege not only due to his military prowess and the “services which [Othello has] done the signiory,” but also due to Othello’s noble lineage; “I fetch my life and being/ From men of royal siege, and my demerits/ May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune/ As this that I have reach'd” (Act I, Scene 2).

Later, however, amid an eloquent speech in defense of Brabantio’s charges, Othello self-identifies only as a soldier, not as worthy of conversing with Venetian nobility. “Rude am I in my speech,/ And little bless'd with the soft phrase of peace” (Act I, Scene 3). In this one instance, we see Othello’s ongoing struggle to negotiate self-worth and feeling “other”.

Where insecurity shows its face more than other interactions and relationships throughout the play, however, is in Othello’s marriage. Othello’s love for Desdemonan is very apparent and their marriage is a high point in Othello’s life; "If it were now to die, / 'Twere now to be most happy, for I fear / My soul hath her content so absolute, / That not another comfort, like to this / Succeeds in unknown fate" (Act II, Scene 1).

Perhaps it is because Othello finds so much joy in marriage that, when confronted with allegations that Cassio and Desdemonan are having an affair, we see Othello’s strong feelings of inadequacy against a conventional white suitor. “Haply, for I am black/ And have not those soft parts of conversation/ That chamberers have…” (Act III, Scene 3).

Thus, Othello’s existing insecurity as being racially and culturally different combine with Othello’s intense love and pride to play directly into Iago’s ability to manipulate Othello to jealous action. Othello’s lack of knowledge when it comes to Venetian custom lets Iago assert that Venetians secretly cheat on their spouses: “In Venice they do let heaven see the pranks they dare not show their husbands” (Act III, Scene 3). Othello is even willing to accept Iago’s suggestion that the difference in race and status between Othello and Desdemonan makes their marriage unnatural. “Not to affect many proposed matches/ Of [his] own clime, complexion, and degree,/ Whereto we see in all things nature tends--/ Foh! one may smell in such a will most rank,/ Foul disproportion thoughts unnatural” (Act III, Scene 3). 

Victim or Villain?

Even with Iago’s machinations turning Othello’s insecurity to jealousy, it is worth noting that Othello’s pride plays just as large a role in Othello’s actions. While the tension between actual victimization at the hands of Iago and Othello’s inclination toward self-torment lend to the tragedy of the story, Othello never loses the freedom of choice. 

Throughout the play, Desdemonan is treated as property that can be stolen and Othello’s sense of ownership over Desdemonan results in wounded pride when challenged by Cassio’s alleged advances. “I had rather be a toad,/ And live upon the vapour of a dungeon,/ Than keep a corner in the thing I love” (Act III, Scene 3). Othello’s ego precludes confronting Desdemonan or Cassio and giving them the opportunity to defend against Iago’s accusations. Instead, Othello chooses to test Desdemonan with the impossible task of producing the stolen handkerchief and to spy on Cassio. Once Othello finally accuses Desdemonan, Othello has already committed to killing Desdemonan convinced that this is an act of divine justice (Act V, Scene 2). 

After Iago’s actions have been disclosed, Othello still has trouble reconciling who is to blame for Desdemonan’s death. Othello views Iago as a “demi-devil” who ensnared [Othello’s] soul and body” but leans toward self-pity as a victim who was justified in murdering Desdemonan given the circumstances; “For nought I did in hate, but all in honour” (Act V, Scene 2).

Famous portrayals of Othello

Richard Burbage

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice was first performed by the King’s Men at the court of James I in November 1604. The show starred Richard Burbage, Shakespeare’s greatest contemporary interpreter. No one knows if Burbage wore black make-up for the part: issues of racism did not surface until the 20th century. Richard Burbage is considered the first great actor of the English theatre. He played many of the major Shakespearean characters, including Othello, Hamlet, Lear, and Richard III.

Edmund Kean

Othello always generated such onstage electricity it was never adapted or revised during the 17th and 18th centuries. It reverberated among actors and audiences as one of the great theatrical experiences: savage, visceral, transgressive. All big-name actors wanted the role. One of the biggest to cause a sensation in the part was Edmund Kean. His last stage performance was Othello at Covent Garden where, collapsing on stage in 1833, he expired soon after, with the words, 'Dying is easy; comedy is hard'.

Ira Aldrige

For more than 200 years after Shakespeare’s Othello was first staged in 1604, only white actors played the title role. Not until 1826 was Othello finally played by a black performer: renowned African American actor Ira Aldridge. Aldridge emigrated from the United States at the age of 17 and pursued a professional acting career in London that led him to perform throughout England and abroad. Yet his work as Othello drew criticism in London. The editors of the London newspaper The Athenaeum recoiled in disgust at an 1833 Covent Garden performance of Othello, in which they witnessed the white actress Ellen Tree (Desdemona) “pawed about the stage by a black man.” And despite Aldridge’s innumerable successes as an actor, it would be another hundred years before the role of Othello was taken up by a fellow African American.

Samuel Phelps and William Macready

In 1837, the West End actor Samuel Phelps alternated Othello and Iago with his celebrated contemporary William Macready. This innovative role swap, from night to night, was repeated by Henry Irving and Edwin Booth in 1880. Again, in 1955, Richard Burton and John Neville exchanged leads during an Old Vic season. Today, the trend against white actors playing Othello has put this trend out of favour.

Henry Irving

Othello was intended to be a crowd-pleaser. Over the centuries it has attracted all the top performers including Victorian performer, Henry Irving, who played the role in 1876. Known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility (supervision of sets, lighting, direction, casting, as well as playing the leading roles) for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, Irving established himself and his company as representative of English classical theatre. In 1895 he became the first actor to be awarded a knighthood, indicating full acceptance into the higher circles of British society.

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson, son of a former slave, was an iconic American star. His performance in 1930 brought Othello into the modern age. At last a black man played the Moor, and was, by all accounts, utterly mesmerising. Only an audio version of this performance survives, but it hints at an extraordinary theatrical moment. The spectacle of a black man kissing a white woman – Desdemona, played by Peggy Ashcroft – was a sensation. On first night, Ashcroft won rave reviews, and Robeson received 20 curtain calls. The production ran for more than a year.

Laurence Olivier

In 1964 Olivier played Othello as if Robeson’s performance had never happened. Declaring this was 'the impossible one', he immersed himself in technicalities of makeup and costume, and told Life magazine that 'the whole thing will be in the lips and the colour'. He reprised the role for a 1965 film. It is one of Olivier’s most disputed roles and American critics, in the midst of the civil rights movement, balked at the blackface portrayal when it opened in the U.S. in 1966. The film played for just two days. It took longer in Europe, largely unaffected by the fallout from the American Civil Rights Movement, until white Othellos in blackface fell out of favor. As late as 1990, Michael Gambon played Othello in a performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Laurence Fishburne

Fishburne played Othello in Oliver Parker’s 1995 film version opposite Kenneth Branagh as Iago. The film did not receive great review with Othello seen as “distant” and “brooding” and “to have had his tragic fall almost before the play begins” (Roger Ebert)

Patrick Stewart

Stewart turned the role into a reinterpretation of the whole play in 1997. His was the first white Othello in America for half a century in a so-called “photo negative” production: the other cast members were black.

Mekhi Phifer

Phifer played Odin James a character based on Othello in the 2001 film adaptation, O. Roger Ebert said of the performance “Mekhi Phifer makes a strong, tortured Odin, and delivers a final speech, which in its heartbreaking anguish, inspires our pity much as Othello's does.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor

British actor and director, Chiwetel Ejiofor played Othello at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre in 2008 alongside Ewan McGregor as Iago. Ejiofor’s performance was lauded by Michael Billington of the Guardian as one that, “in its descent from majestic dignity to deluded rage, suggests a great and noble building being destroyed by the wrecker's ball” and won him the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor.

Golda Rosheuvel

Rosheuvel portrayed Othello at the Liverpool Everyman in 2018 making her the first female Othello in a major modern British theatre. Lyn Gardner notes of the casting, “In changing the gender of Othello – making the character a woman who has excelled in what is clearly very much a man’s world – the stakes are raised”

Check out the Nebraska Shakespeare On Tour Production of Othello, traveling to schools and communities this fall!

Upcoming Public Performances

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: Approaching the Props for Othello

Our Othello On Tour series continues with Wesley Houston, who has been on tour with Nebraska Shakespeare nine times. This year, Wesley is the Prop Master and Stage Manager, in addition to his Director of Production duties. Check it out!

Join us every Thursday for a new video about Shakespeare, theatre, and 21st century life.

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Soul of Wit: Ezra Colon

This week's interview is with Othello director, Ezra Colon.

"Brevity is the soul of wit" - Hamlet

Soul of Wit is a brief interview series with the artists and artisans of Nebraska Shakespeare.  Listen to more interviews HERE

Thursday, August 22, 2019

#NEShakesED Talks - Othello Adaptation and Sound

We are continuing our Othello On Tour series and talking with Sarah, who has been with Shakespeare On Tour since its inception 13 years ago. This year, Sarah is designing sound and adapting the script. Check it out!

Follow us every week for a new video covering Shakespeare, theatre, and 21st century life!
Click HERE for other videos.

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: Meet the Scenic Designer for Othello

We are continuing our Othello On Tour series and talking with Brendan, who is a scenic and lighting designer, technical director, and wearer of many creative hats! Brendan started working with Nebraska Shakespeare in 2003. Check it out!

Join us every Thursday for a new video about Shakespeare, theatre, and 21st century life.

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

#NEShakesEdTalks - Meet the Director of Othello

We are continuing our Othello On Tour series and talking with Ezra Colon. Ezra is an actor, director, and teaching artist based in Omaha; he has worked with Nebraska Shakespeare since 2016.

Hear what he has to say about our casting approach to Othello!

Join us each week for a new video topic!

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: Meet the Cast of Othello

Rehearsals begin in one month for our 14th Annual Shakespeare On Tour! This week, we begin our Othello On Tour series - and we start by meeting the cast of Othello!

Join us every Thursday for a new video about Shakespeare, theatre, and 21st century life. Thanks to Theatre Arts Guild - Omaha for their grant support.

Othello On Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: On location from the folger library.

Katie goes to Washington DC and gives us a brief tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library, the world's largest Shakespeare collection.

Join us each week for a new NEShakesEDTalks topic. Visit us on YouTube for more video topics!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Soul of Wit: Anna Jordan

This week's interview features Anna Jordan. Anna is an actor, director, and educator, and will be traveling Nebraska for Shakespeare On Tour 2019: Othello

"Brevity is the soul of wit"

Soul of Wit is a brief interview series with the artists and artisans of Nebraska Shakespeare.  Listen to more interviews HERE

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Meet the Cast of Othello for the 14th annual season of Shakespeare On Tour!

This season's Othello will be the first time we take this play on the road as a part of Shakespeare On Tour, and we couldn't be more excited to share this challenging story across the region. Let's meet the cast!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: Shakespeare On The Green RECAP!

Our On The Green season - All's Well That Ends Well and Hamlet - has closed. We are thankful for all the people that made it happen.

Photo and video credits: Sarah Lynn Brown, Chris Holzmeier of Foton-Foto, Ezra Colon, and Tricia Mancuso Parks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Late Night Hamlet is tonight!

Join us for a one-night-only after-dark performance of Hamlet at 10 PM.  

Come early for food, the MaMo Art Gallery, and beer garden by Zipline Brewing at 8 PM, and opening musical set by Mitch Gettman at 9 PM!

Learn More

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

In The News: "Shakespeare-loving duo to celebrate 20th anniversary at 'Hamlet,' where it all began"

Shakespeare-loving duo to celebrate 20th anniversary at 'Hamlet,' where it all began

By Betsie Freeman / World-Herald staff writer

When Craig and Lara Marsh got married, the vows could have been “I do, or not I do.”

They took the plunge on July 3, 1999, onstage at Shakespeare on the Green. Now, 20 years later, they celebrated their anniversary Wednesday at the same Elmwood Park location, Nebraska Shakespeare’s home for 33 years.

Both Craig and Lara are involved in Omaha theater, Craig as an audio engineer and Lara as a freelance director and stage manager and a Nebraska Shakespeare employee since 1996. She also worked for many years at the Omaha Community Playhouse before she decided to pursue her master of arts degree.

“We have a great interest in the Elizabethan era,” Lara said. “We made (Shakespeare on the Green) a tradition, even in our dating days.”

So what better place to gather for a big platinum anniversary bash? Family and friends who share their love for Shakespeare, perhaps including a few who were present in 1999, were there. The festival’s party tent was theirs for the night, thanks to Nebraska Shakespeare, and they enjoyed sweet treats and drinks before attending a late-night performance of “Hamlet,” one of the Bard’s most frequently produced plays.

Back in the day, Lara said, she and Craig got lots of suggestions for their wedding.

“Everybody kept telling us what to do, and anything they said got crossed off our list and we did our own thing,” she said.

That thing was clasping hands in front of the set for “Macbeth,” one of the Bard’s other iconic tragedies, and repeating vows before a judge dressed as an English friar. Lara and Craig both wore heavy Elizabethan-era costumes which were quite stifling, Lara said, given the hot, gooey conditions that evening.

It also sprinkled a little on their wedding day, leaving them scrambling to cover up food and wedding paraphernalia.

They had no regrets. To this day, Lara says, they’re grateful that Nebraska Shakespeare allowed them to get married in a place that remains so meaningful to both of them. Friend Wesley Houston, who is the organization’s director of production, said he thinks the story is a great reminder of the many traditions created each year at the festival and “part of what makes our city a great place to live.”

Who cared about a little rain, Lara said.

“My husband told me rain is good luck on a wedding day.”

And for the Marshes, it was.

In The News: "Bertram never caught on in the U.S. but rings loud in Shakespeare lore"

Evans: Bertram never caught on in U.S. but rings loud in Shakespeare lore

By Cleveland Evans

“I am undone: there is no living, none, if Bertram be away.”

Those are the words of low-born Helena in Shakespeare’s “All’s Well that Ends Well,” part of this year’s Shakespeare on the Green programming. The next performance is 8 p.m. Friday on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.

In “All’s Well,” Helena loves Bertram, Count of Roussillon. She cures the King of France of a debilitating illness with knowledge learned from her late physician father, on the condition she can choose one of his courtiers as her husband.

The king forces Bertram to marry Helena. Disgusted at Helena’s lower class origin, Bertram runs off to Italy. There, he tries to seduce Diana. Helena follows Bertram to Italy, disguises herself as Diana and tricks Bertram into going to bed with her.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Soul of Wit: Danielle Robertson

This week's non-podcast guest is actor Danielle Robertson!

In The News: I am the ROI: Sarah Brown

Nebraska Shakespeare is very fortunate to have partnerships with the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University that make our summer and year-round programming possible.

Our University partnerships provide us with spaces to create the beautiful costumes and impressive stages for Shakespeare On The Green, as well as housing support to bring engaging talent to the state.

But, more importantly, Creighton and UNO are teaching the next generation of theatre artists that will keep Nebraska a thriving artistic community for years to come.

50% of Nebraska Shakespeare's year-round staff was trained at either Creighton or UNO, and countless other actors and artists that make up our seasonal staff are current students or alumni of the Universities.

Here, Interim Artistic Director Sarah Lynn Brown, discusses being a student of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Click HERE to read the full article.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

In The News: "Review: Female-forward 'Hamlet' didn't seem unusual. It just seemed good"

Review: Female-forward 'Hamlet' didn't seem unusual. It just seemed good

By Drew Neneman / World-Herald correspondent

It wasn’t “Hamlet” as usual.

But the cast of William Shakespeare’s longest tragedy made it easy to forget that.

Nebraska Shakespeare’s production of the play used female actors in strategic gender and role reversals, most notably the title character, played by New Yorker Genevieve Simon. Other females in male roles included Amelia Ampuero as Cornelius, Tolu Ekisola as Rosenkrantz, Miranda Neuhaus as Reynaldo, Sophie Netanel as Laertes and Tricia Mancuso Parks as Polonius.

It premiered Thursday night in the usual spot, Shakespeare Park, nestled between the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus and Elmwood Park. It will alternate nights with “All’s Well That Ends Well.”
Interim Artistic Director Sarah Lynn Brown explains in the program that the 2019 season is being produced as “Female Forward.” The entire cast of “All’s Well” is made up of women.

With artful direction from John Hardy, the gender-reimagined cast in “Hamlet” seamlessly slipped into the text and the action. The actors and their characters transcended gender roles to illuminate human and political archetypes in a compelling way.

The play tells the classic story of Prince Hamlet, who was in line for the throne in Denmark when his father died. Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, not only seized the throne before that could happen, but he married Hamlet’s mother, much to the son’s disgust. A ghost visits Hamlet and tells him that Claudius poisoned the king and that Hamlet should seek revenge. Hamlet feigns being crazy to investigate the ghost’s claims. It appears that Hamlet may be descending into madness for real as he pursues his quest for justice.

Simon was fantastic as Hamlet. Her approach to the tormented character was lively and multifaceted. In the wrong hands, it’s easy to make Shakespeare’s tragedies into something resembling a bad B-movie, with long tapestries and belabored cries of passion. Simon’s “Hamlet” was a fresh young prince full of humor, lust, affection, loyalty, tenderness and intensity.

Henry Ragan’s portrayal of Horatio was notably touching. Horatio is a character who can be easily swept aside in the audience’s perception of the story. Ragan did an incredible job of making Horatio’s observations and sympathies an endearing foil for the audience’s own relationship with the tragic events that unfolded.

Brown has said one of her goals was to make Shakespeare on the Green more accessible. To me, the “Hamlet” experience was poignant and immersive. The synopsis in the program had “hashtag” asides that commented pointedly on the plot. The Scholars Program prior to the curtain offered insight into stage direction.

Executive Director Mary Ann Bamber gave a lighthearted welcome that illustrated the relationship of the “Hamlet” story to our own arts culture, most particularly the 1994 cartoon and 2019 summer feature film “The Lion King.” Just before the opening curtain, “Shakespeare Rundown,” with a cast of six young players, presented “Hamlet” in five minutes or less, a new feature.

I was initially skeptical of those sweeping efforts. The “hashtags” and gender swaps flew in the face of my arguably conservative theatrical background that’s full of notions about “the author’s intent” and “historical context.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

In The News: "Preview: Hamlet is a girl, and other info about the second Shakespeare On The Green play"

Preview: Hamlet is a girl, and other info about the second Shakespeare on the Green play

By Betsie Freeman / World-Herald staff writer

A couple of things are notable about the actor who plays the title character in “Hamlet,” the tragedy premiering this week at Shakespeare on the Green.

To begin with, she’s female (as are some other traditionally male characters in the play.) And she’s based in New York City, where she has performed in other Shakespeare works.

The actor is Genevieve Simon, who as a playwright has developed new works with the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Bluefaces Theatre Company and Columbia University.

Nebraska Shakespeare interim artistic director Sarah Brown said it makes sense to cast women in male Shakespeare roles if your goal is parity among actors.

Because Shakespeare wrote so many roles for men, women thespians who want to specialize in his works find fewer jobs than their male counterparts.

With other theater professionals, Brown is committed to “50/50 by 2020,” an initiative to make sure theaters are hiring casts that are roughly gender equal and to provide equal pay for women as well.

The ultimate goal remains the same, she says: to produce a compelling show.

“I just want to tell stories honestly regardless of gender,” she says.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Guys! It's OPENING NIGHT for Shakespeare On The Green!

In The News: "Shakespeare on the Green is new and improved"

Shakespeare on the Green is new and improved, and the twists begin Thursday night

By Betsie Freeman / World-Herald staff writer

William Shakespeare is a very old guy. That doesn’t mean he’s set in his ways.

Directors, producers and actors around the world put their special spins on Shakespeare every day. Some ideas might be bolder or better than others, but all have the same intent: keeping a 17th-century playwright and his plays fresh enough to draw audiences.

With her staff and actors, Nebraska Shakespeare interim artistic director Sarah Brown is shaking up this year’s Shakespeare on the Green. It begins Thursday night at Elmwood Park with “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

Brown, who had been the organization’s director of education, is putting her mark on both the plays and the atmosphere at the 33-year-old festival.

“I’m excited to try new things out,” she said. “I’m looking to make it more accessible. A lot of people think it’s something that’s not for them.”

Nebraska Shakespeare is adding several things leading up to the play each night. Benson First Friday’s MaMo, a traveling art gallery in a repurposed semi-trailer, will be on-site featuring works by local artists. And in addition to the wandering medieval song troupe Madrigali et al, a local musician will play onstage each evening as an opening act.

Members of the company will present a five-minute onstage synopsis of the evening’s play before it begins, so people will be better prepared for Shakespeare’s language, themes and plotlines.

The new activities join popular longtime features such as the nightly scholars forum, in which members of the company discuss Shakespeare’s text, production and relevant contemporary topics, and the recitation of winning works in the annual Anne Dittrick Sonnet Writing Contest.

There also are a number of theme days:

This Friday is Ladies Night (attend with your pals, co-workers or members of various women’s organizations).

June 29 is Family Night (face-painting and other activities for kids).

July 2 is Educators Night (wear your school apparel, come with fellow teachers and, with an ID, get food and beer discounts).

July 3 is Late Night Hamlet (a special 10 p.m. performance of the play that alternates with the opening piece).

July 5 is Red, White and Blue Night (wear patriotic apparel to extend the Independence Day celebration).

“It’s more accessible and more fun,” Brown said.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

In The News: "Irreverent, all-female 'All's Well' opens 2019 season for Shakespeare on the Green"

Irreverent, all-female 'All's Well' opens 2019 season for Shakespeare on the Green

By Betsie Freeman / World-Herald staff writer

Gender is always a subtext when you consider the works of William Shakespeare.

In his time, men played female roles because women were prohibited from performing. More recently, women have played traditionally male roles such as Hamlet and Richard III.

Nebraska Shakespeare recently has mixed it up, offering “The Taming of the Shrew” with an all-male cast in 2016 and creating a female performance group, Juno’s Swans, which has performed various Shakespeare plays outside the yearly Shakespeare on the Green in Elmwood Park.

This year, interim artistic director Sarah Brown is bringing Juno’s Swans to the main festival. She will direct an all-female cast in “All’s Well That Ends Well.” It opens Thursday night at Elmwood Park as the first show in this year’s Shakespeare on the Green season, Nebraska Shakespeare’s 33rd.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks - The History of All's Well That Ends Well

This week's video: All's Well That Ends Well's History! 

Most people don't know much about Shakespeare's play, All's Well That Ends Well. What we do know is pretty interesting! Check out this week's video in anticipation of our OPENING NIGHT of All's Well That Ends Well at Shakespeare On The Green next week.

Join us each Thursday for a new topic!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: History of Hamlet

This week, we talk about Hamlet and the history of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy.

Join us every Thursday for a new topic!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Soul of Wit - Two for the Price of One!

This week's Soul of Wit NON-podcast features our youngest company member AND the costume designer for All's Well That Ends Well!

Shakespeare On The Green is just around the corner.  It starts June 20th!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019

Thursday, May 23, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks: Juno's Swans

This week’s video: Nebraska Shakespeare’s all-female Juno’s Swans program. 

Artistic Director Sarah Lynn Brown joins Katie to share where the Juno’s Swans program began. Check it Out:

Check out the Juno's Swans/Shakepeare On The Green production of All's Well That Ends Well this summer!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Soul of Wit - A weekly NON-podcast

Check out our weekly non-podcast: Soul of Wit

Sarah Lynn Brown is sitting down with the artists of #ShakespeareOnTheGreen to ask them questions about the process at break-neck speed. No prep, no thinking time - just honest responses. Should be fun!

Check it out each Monday.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

#NEShakesEDTalks - The King's Men

This week’s #NEShakesEDTalks video explores Shakespeare’s all-male theatre company!

Learn about Shakespeare’s Acting Company and how they came to be The King’s Men.

Join us every Thursday for a new video about Shakespeare, theatre, and 21st century life.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

There's a lot to be excited for at this summer's Shakespeare On The Green!

Opening bands, an onsite art gallery, special event nights, and expanded activities are being added for the 2019 season of Shakespeare On The Green.

2019 will feature everything you've come to love about Shakespeare On The Green - awe-inspiring plays in a beautiful shaded setting, delicious food, and amazing memories with your family, friends, and community PLUS much so more!

In addition to great food and drink, nightly forums, and pre-play performances, we're partnering with a number of local artists and holding special event nights to expand the On The Green Experience:

Artist Partnerships:

Special Events On The Green:

We can't wait to see you this summer!  Shakespeare On The Green runs June 20-23, 27-30, and July 2, 3, 5-7!