by John Murrell
directed by Aaron Vega
April 16 – May 3, 2015
When a longtime, disillusioned college professor is asked to tutor her dean’s son through his freshman Shakespeare class, she finds it to be as much a test for her as it is for him. Although they seem to have nothing in common, as they explore the Bard’s Othello together, they learn more about each other—and themselves—than either is ready to admit. While they draw strength from the play, they come to understand what it means to live up to expectations.
Rob and Leesa Comparin | Emerson Climate Technologies, Inc. | Jack and Maryann Bernstein | Muse Machine | IUE-CWA | Jon and Diana Sebaly | Dave and Dulie Greer
Learn more about the play, its playwright, Shakespeare and Othello.
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From the Director
A word on Shakespeare from director Aaron Vega
Over 400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still the most produced playwright, by far. But if your high school was like mine, learning Shakespeare was a painful process. Slogging through Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Julius Caesar, not getting the jokes and not understanding what it is about these old plays that people find so fascinating. Like Murph, there’s a mystery about him. Everyone thinks he’s so great, but why?
And then, if you’re lucky, you get to hear his words spoken by people who can feel them. People who can let them roll around on the tongue and the brain. People who are able to mine the old stories for their humanity. People who can bring forward the joy, love, passion, and epic-ness of what Shakespeare was feeling when he created his plays. Once you’ve seen it done right it’s easy to become hooked and once you’ve become hooked it’s easy to become obsessed.
The ideas and feelings that are contained in Shakespeare are so much bigger than anything we could face. The plays can make our current situation seem smaller and easier to manage or they can give us solace if we imagine that Shakespeare understood the depth of our sorrow and lived to write about it. It is easy to understand how someone like Prof could use a play like Othello as a depository for her great pain. Like Dropbox or Google Drive, Shakespeare’s plays have the space to store what we can’t handle at the moment. Perhaps not the healthiest option, but one that people often choose. And if Shakespeare’s poetry holds that much power over you, no small talk can ever hold a candle. What’s a chat about the weather compared to the sparkling conversation in Much Ado about Nothing, the frantic passion of Romeo and Juliet, or the darkness of the human soul in Macbeth? They are human riddles that you can get lost in.
So, why is he still the #1 produced playwright 400 years later? Because his plays are difficult to pin down. They are about everything and nothing at the same time. They’re “hard.” Ultimately, Taking Shakespeare is a reminder to take time with the hard things in life; even the unsolvable. As Shakespeare wrote in Troilus and Cressida, “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.”
I hope that you enjoy this show. It has been a joy to create. And I also hope, that if you haven’t touched Shakespeare since high school, this play inspires you to give him another shot. You might be surprised at what you find. Time has a way of answering a lot of riddles.
John Murrell (Playwright) Over the past 35 years, John Murrell has become one of Canada’s most beloved and frequently produced playwrights, as well as a highly respected arts advocate, mentor and consultant. His plays have been translated into more than 15 languages and performed in more than 30 countries around the world. Among his best-known plays are Waiting for the Parade (about five women during World War II), Memoir (about the old age of legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt), Farther West (detailing a prairie prostitute’s search for absolute freedom), and The Faraway Nearby (about American painter and feminist icon Georgia O’Keefe). His play Death in New Orleans, commissioned by One Yellow Rabbit of Calgary, was premiered by the company at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre during the 1998 International Festival of the Arts, and won a prestigious Fringe First Award for outstanding new writing. Murrell also wrote the screenplays for television versions of Waiting for the Parade and Farther West, and for The Secret of the Nutcracker, a film produced by Joe Media in Calgary with music by John Estacio, which is establishing itself as a Christmas tradition on CBC-TV. As a translator, Murrell has created critically acclaimed and frequently revived versions of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard, of Ibsen’s The Doll House and The Master Builder, of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, and of several plays by celebrated Québec playwright Carole Frechette. Murrell is also the librettist for three operas by Canadian composer John Estacio: Filumena (premiered by the Calgary Opera and The Banff Centre in 2003, and later invited as the opening night event of “The Alberta Scene” at the National Arts Centre of Canada in Ottawa, as well as being filmed for CBC television), Frobisher (first presented by the same two companies in 2007) and Lillian Alling (which had its warmly received premiere at Vancouver Opera in October 2010). He was also written ballet scenarios, choreographed by John Alleyne, for Ballet British Columbia and the National Ballet of Canada. Murrell has worked as Playwright-in-Residence at both Alberta Theatre Projects and Theatre Calgary, as an Associate Director of the Stratford Festival of Canada, as Head of the Banff Playwrights Colony (1986-1989), as Head of the Theatre Section of the Canada Council For The Arts (1988-1992), as Artistic Director/Executive Producer of Theatre Arts at The Banff Centre (1999-2005), and as Executive Artistic Director of Performing Arts at The Banff Centre (2005-2007). He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, a winner of the esteemed Walter Carsen Prize for excellence in the performing arts, an inaugural recipient of the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta’s Distinguished Artist Award, and, in 2009, was honored with the Governor-General of Canada’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.
Aaron Vega (Director) is a freelance director who is committed to bringing the audience’s imagination into the theatrical process. He is passionate about creating dialogue in the community and believes that the Performing Arts are the perfect medium in this digital world to get the conversation started. His directing credits include Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and #othello for The Human Race Theatre Company, in-development plays for The Puzzle Festival in NYC, philharmonic concerts, original puppet shows, and art installations. He has a BFA from Wright State University’s PATP, is a founding artist of The Zoot Theatre Company, is the Artistic Director for the production company Eureka Suitcase, and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. He currently live in NYC with his wife and dog. AaronVega.com, @BardGeek, FB/AaronVegaNews
Dan Gray (Scenic Designer) happily re-joins The Human Race for Taking Shakespeare. Other recent HRTC credits include It’s a Wonderful Life; Caroline, or Change; Moonlight and Magnolias; Ears on a Beatle; Romeo and Juliet; Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (with the Dayton Philharmonic); The Spitfire Grill and I Hate Hamlet. Dan’s other regional theatre credits include numerous designs for The George Street Playhouse, Capital Rep, Players Theatre Columbus, the Delaware Theatre Company and CATCO. He has also designed for many Central Ohio companies including: BalletMet, Opera Columbus, The Dayton Ballet and The Columbus Symphony. Dan is Resident Scenic Designer and an Associate Professor at The Ohio State University Department of Theatre.
Janet G. Powell (Costume Designer) Costuming credits for The Human Race Theatre Company include two In-School Tours: A Dickens of a Time and Belch, Bottom and the Boys, and main stage productions of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Family Shots, Other Desert Cities, Torch Song Trilogy, Avenue Q, Band Geeks!, 8 Track, Permanent Collection and The 39 Steps. She costumed Boeing, Boeing and Parade, both joint productions of CCM and The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center. She is a retired Norwood City Schools artistic director/teacher where she directed, designed, and costumed over 150 shows. She is thankful to her husband and children for putting up with many years of theatrical insanity.
John Rensel (Lighting Designer) is the long-term Resident Lighting Designer for The Human Race Theatre Company, Muse Machine, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Pops series and Dayton Opera Association. He also serves as the long-time Technical Director for the Fraze Pavilion and has provided technical advance production coordination, lighting designs, automation programming and performance operation services for many artists and productions that have visited that venue. John also has a diverse dance lighting background, having provided lighting designs and technical production services for many years to The Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. John’s national credits included a lighting design package for a National Touring Production of the Elton John/Tim Rice collaboration Aida. Most recent local credits include all the designs for the 2014-15 Human Race Theatre Company’s season at The Loft Theatre; Muse Machine’s production of Oliver!, at the Victoria Theatre and the Dayton Opera Association’s 2014-15 season at the Schuster Center.
Jay Brunner (Sound Designer) is an HRTC veteran, working on Mame; Play It by Heart; Fiddler on the Roof; Next to Normal; Avenue Q; and Red-Blooded, All-American Man as Conductor/Co-Music Director/Guitarist/Arranger (take your pick) and is thrilled to add Sound Designer to the list. Jay has designed sound/incidental music for countless voiceovers, regional commercials, radio spots, training videos, collegiate theatre projects, marching bands, clubs, and organizations. He owns/runs a professional recording studio, Ardmore Underground with his wife, professional actor/voice-over artist Christine Brunner (clients include: IAMS, McDonalds, Campbell’s Soup, McGraw-Hill, Audio Books, Marriott, Delta Airlines, Baptist Health, Cincinnati State, Time Warner, Febreze, YMCA, UD). Jay performs and records with local groups Uncle Daddy and the Family Secret, Adagio Blue and 21 Ghosts.
Kay Carver (Production Stage Manager) graduated from Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures with a degree in Design/Technology and Stage Management. Her professional credits include Production Stage Manager for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Family Shots, Mame, Miracle on South Division Street, HRTC’s 2013-2014 Loft season, the 2013 Festival of New Musicals, HRTC’s 2012-2013 Loft season and MTW Dani Girl, Assistant Stage Manager for The Drowsy Chaperone and Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical and Production Assistant for Twelfth Night, The 39 Steps and Ordinary Days, all with The Human Race Theatre Company. She also served as the Production Stage Manager for the Wright State University/Dayton Philharmonic collaborative production of Bernstein’s Mass at the Schuster Center.
Jon Kovach (Murph) is jazzed to return to HRTC, last playing Kyle in Band Geeks! (2012). Since graduating from Miami University with a BA in theatre (2011), Jon founded Cincinnati’s Unity Productions, helped build Untethered Theatre Co. (2012-13), became an Associate Artist at The Know Theatre (2014-15), and has worked with internationally recognized film-makers (George Clooney, Andy Goddard), authors (Nic Balthazar, Ron Jones), and theaters (Playhouse in the Park). Visit JonKovach.com to find examples of Jon’s original music and playwriting. Jon would like to thank you for playing your role in Dayton’s arts scene, and his family for their endless encouragement.
Johanna Leister (Prof) grew up in Texas, began professional study at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and continued long-time in New York with Uta Hagen at HB Studio. Selected credits include Broadway: Whose Life Is It Anyway? with Mary Tyler Moore, Tartuffe, Dracula, and Whodunnit. Also in New York: Riverside Shakespeare, Irish Rep, Rattlestick, Gorilla Rep. Outside New York: Long Wharf Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alley Theatre, Pioneer Theatre Company, Walnut Street Theatre, and Two River Theater. National Tour: Equus with Ken Howard. Television: Phoebe Smith on The Edge of Night (4 years), and Mariane in Tartuffe for PBS Great Performances. Ms. Leister is on the faculty of Herbert Berghof (HB) Studio in New York where, in addition to teaching, she participates in readings and performances of new plays.