Othello Falling Production Diary
August 16, 2011
The opening of the Othello Falling benefit was exciting and satisfying – so many friends stood up and made their support known, by commenting, re-posting the links to the benefit site all across the internet, and offering the kindest words to Jaeda and myself for the effort we are making. A special thank-you to Gina, Kristaline, Lisa, Lucy and Rose, who went above and beyond in their support, advice and encouragement.
I think my favorite moment in the aftermath of the opening was a note from Jaeda (who had never heard my voice before), telling me that her feathered housemate, Birdie Boy, had begun to warble at the sound of my recitation as Othello. What more delightful validation could there be than that?
But of course there is much more to do, and I quickly settled myself down to continue the project. My thoughts had always been clear in my mind that I wanted to follow the first recitation, which introduced Othello and Desdemona on their wedding day, with vows exchanged between the two. Somehow in those vows I wanted to display, subtly at first, the gap between their visions of one another and the realities that would very quickly begin to pull apart their harmony together. Othello, in his vows, out and out admits he is puzzled why Desdemona should love him. He is much older, and has known very little in his life but war. He sees pleasure and fire in her eyes, and tells himself that there can be no other reason for that than honest love, for he has no “temptations” to offer her – equal youth, or cultured learning – that might be serving to cloud her perception. And this is of course true, though his perception of that love will change, as his own self-doubts gnaw at him. For Desdemona, my writing of her character has grown in many ways since I first heard Jaeda read the part. I always thought of Desdemona as a strong woman (as I believe Shakespeare portrayed her, though this is not always brought out in theatric productions), but Jaeda’s Desdemona is fierce and fiery indeed, making me think her character has been brought to a high-strung emotional edge herself, from a lifetime of being controlled and used like a possession. In the rebellious act of her marriage to Othello she sees an end to servitude, and a freedom to be strong with a man who should be accustomed to strength; in her eyes he has emerged from war and strife with what she feels is nobility and a form of proud wisdom. In short, she is quite blind to his doubts and troubled sense of self-worth.
I think these currents of emotion and expectation echo what happens in many relationships that become abusive. The baggage carried into the relationship – old violence, self-doubt, idealization of one’s partner based on flawed perception – is ignored in the beginning, but ignoring it only lights an unseen fuse, which will haunt and shadow the sometimes nearly-mad happiness of passionate infatuation.
So the wedding vows of Othello and Desdemona are in fact poignantly sad and unknowingly desperate…neither one truly sees the other at all.
Visit the ongoing Othello Falling benefit against abuse HERE
Visit Community Action Stops Abuse HERE