Such Stuff Podcast

#SuchStuff s1 e4: Shakespeare and Race

  In the latest installment of our Such Stuff podcast, we talk to actors and scholars after our first-ever Shakespeare and Race festival.

33 minute read

SEASON 1 EPISODE 4

Shakespeare and Race

This week on Such Stuff, we follow up on our first ever Shakespeare and Race festival, and ask: what does it mean to be a person of colour and study, teach, perform and read Shakespeare?

Our own Dr Farah Karim-Cooper sat down with Professor Ayanna Thompson, to hear her thoughts on casting Shakespeare here and in the US, and follow up on her controversial proposition that Othello is an irredeemable play.

Keith Hamilton-Cobb brings us extracts of his solo play American Moor, which was part of the Shakespeare and Race festival, and which examines the experience and perspective of black men in America through the metaphor of Shakespeare’s Othello.

Farah talks to actor Aaron Pierre, currently playing Cassio in Othello, about performing to Globe audiences, and how he sees the role of Cassio.

Finally, Farah spoke to Leaphia Darko, performing in Love’s Labour’s Lost, about her experiences of studying and performing Shakespeare and classical theatre at drama school.

‘Othello is not a real black man’

— Professor Ayanna Thompson

You can download the episode transcript or read it below.

Leaphia Darko

Leaphia Darko starring in Love Labour’s Lost 2018. Photographer: I do not know

Transcript

[Music plays]

Imogen Greenberg: Hello, I’m Imogen Greenberg and welcome to another episode of Such Stuff, the podcast from Shakespeare’s Globe. This summer, Shakespeare’s Globe played host to our first ever Shakespeare and Race festival, convened by our very own Head of Higher Education and Research – and podcast co-presenter – Dr Farah Karim Cooper. Including performances, panel discussions and a scholarly symposium, it was an opportunity to hear from scholars and artists of colour on how they engage with questions around Shakespeare and Race. Here’s Farah on why she convened the festival, and why now was the moment to do it…

Dr Farah Karim-Cooper: The reason we had a Shakespeare and Race festival here is because there was a real need to examine, particularly in the times we’re living in, the role of racial diversity in scholarship, in teaching and in theatre productions, and so we wanted to examine, for example, questions around colour blind casting. Should we be casting all roles colour blind or should we be thinking more racially attentively about casting? These are questions we wanted to put to scholars and to actors of colour themselves. And another reason we wanted to do it is to think about what race studies is. What does it mean to study Shakespeare and race? Is it to examine only plays like Othello or The Merchant of Venice or Titus Andronicus with Aaron the Moor, or is to think more globally and more sort of broadly about race and race studies. I think largely too, we wanted to make sure that we had scholars of colour presenting their work at the Globe, which is something that we haven’t done enough of in the past.

IG: As the festival was going on, the Globe itself was playing host to a production of Othello, and this threw up all sorts of conversations about the question of race in the play.

Here’s Farah…

FK-C: I think it’s been really fascinating to have scholars here during the Shakespeare and Race festival when we had a production of Othello running at the same time, because one of the major contentious plays in race scholarship is Othello, and questions were being asked about what the effect of playing Othello is. And there are critical race scholars who suggest that that play shouldn’t be performed anymore, or suggest that actually it should be performed by a white actor in black face, which is a really controversial thing to suggest, but it says something about the way in which that play keeps getting done. So yeah, there were some really interesting moments during the festival because we had a live, current production of Othello going on at the same time.

IG: We didn’t want the conversation to stop there… so this week on the podcast, we’ll be hearing from academics and actors of colour on what it means to be a person of colour and study, teach, perform and read Shakespeare, as well as taking a closer look at Othello and how modern Shakespeare productions tackle the question of race.

Stick with us as we ask whether Othello is an irredeemable play that shouldn’t be performed again, and look at some of the contentions around casting classical drama.

First up, Farah sat down with Professor Ayanna Thompson, director of the Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University, to talk about Ayanna’s views on colour blind versus colour conscious casting, and her controversial suggestion that we should consider never performing Othello again.

FK-C: Er, so Ayanna, I know that you’ve written a lot about colour blind casting, so I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what some of the issues are with colour blind casting.

Ayanna Thompson: I guess I would start by saying the impetus behind colour blind casting when it started as a kind of named entity in the 1950s, at least in the US, was there are all these amazing actors of colour and of course these stories are universal so we should be able to employ as diverse a cast as possible. I think that type of casting practice which is casting without regards to race, and it’s supposed to be a true meritocracy, the best actor for the best part, has really taken hold in the UK. I will say in the US, in small regional theatres, that is still the main casting practice. But in the major theatre centres, that type of non-traditional casting has been eschewed for the most part. And its precisely because what started as this good impetus, slowly kind of warped into ‘well, right, does that mean my race, my ethnicity, my body has nothing to bear. Like I can’t bring any of that to bear to the role whereas my actors counterparts can, right?’ They’re going to bring the full impact of their body to the role and you’re supposed to read that in. So it became this weird kind of imbalance. And for many kind of more, I would say, activist leaning actors, they want their bodies to be read in the full complexity of cultural history but also their own personal histories, and if you’re doing a colour blind version that kind of gets erased out.

One of the biggest holes in our research right now, is that we don’t have significant data about how audiences actually make sense of non-traditional casting.

FK-C: Yeah, ‘cause that’s what I was going to ask you about, is how are audiences making sense of this, but we don’t actually have any statistics?

AT: No, we don’t have any statistics.

FK-C: What do you think are the key differences between the theatre communities in the UK and the US on this topic?

AT: Well I think the theatre audience in the US does not believe that anyone is colour blind, like that narrative doesn’t really exist anymore in the US. The discourse that I hear most often in the UK is ‘Oh, you know, we don’t have the baggage that you have in the US of slavery’ and so that means…

FK-C: Really?

AT: We don’t have to, we don’t see race in the same way you do. I’m like ‘OK, I get that you don’t see race in the same way, but you still see it!

FK-C: Yes, I mean the relationship to race is very different in the UK, but there is a relationship and a long history of racism in this country.

AT: Absolutely.

FK-C: And I think that’s a cop out.

AT: I think so too.

FK-C: Does that suggest then that in the UK we’re not able to be colour blind?

AT: I don’t think human beings…

FK-C: … can be colour blind.

AT: Yeah. I think that’s an unrealistic expectation. We naturally categorise people in various different ways and one of the ways that we categorise people and make sense of people is about their bodies, um, for good and ill effect. But that’s sort of natural, I don’t think there’s anything unnatural about that so, so I think asking people to then go against what is part of kind of human make up is very strange. And I think also one of the, also the other impetus behind colour blind casting back in the 1950s, the ideal was that we would have a world in which race wouldn’t matter. Which is great, right, that’s a good ideal. But part of that where race doesn’t matter is, and we don’t have to talk about it and we don’t have to see it, which is really a cop out. So actually I would love it if race didn’t matter, but we can only get there really if we do the hard work of talking about what you actually see, what kind of emotional, cultural, historical baggage you put on to that specific kind of body.

FK-C: If a theatre company wants to produce Hamlet, and a black actor auditions for Hamlet and gets the part, how does one do that without necessarily casting everybody black?

AT: I have really discovered in my own theatre going and in my own research that I just think colour conscious casting makes more sense. So if you are going to have an open cast for Hamlet, and you have a black actor who is the best, like he’s just knocking it out of the park for the role, then I think you have to have a concept around why you’ve got a black Prince of Denmark. Are we still in Denmark, are we somewhere else? What colour is the ghost father? What colour is the mother? What colour is Claudius?

FK-C: Can I ask then, what if you are setting this production in the 16th century and you’ve got doublet and hose, and obviously we know that actors in the 16th century on the commercial stages were mostly, were all white…

AT: And men…

FK-C: And men, yes. So what do you suggest for the set design and costume design?

AT: I think it’s actually a tricky proposition because I do think this is precisely what gets into what I call the mixed bag, that you’re sending different semiotic messages to the audience and you’re asking them to navigate between them seamlessly. So on the one hand you’re saying ‘we are producing the plays the way we think they were produced in the 17th century’ except they’re not all white and they’re not all men. OK, so already you’re like well it’s not really original. So, OK, what if you want it to be a 17th century style production but you want to have a diverse cast. I still think the concept of the family relationship has to be worked out, so it could be some royal family that it looks like they’re vaguely western in dress. But the family line needs to look like they’re related… I think. Because I think then you’re really asking the audience to turn too many semiotic levers and then not offering them a place to talk about if it works or not. That’s what I think frustrates me about a lot of theatre companies that are employing these different types of models together is that they never go to their audience and say ‘Did it work?’

FK-C: Yes, yeah.

AT: [Laughter] You know what I mean? And in fact the dominant narrative from classical theatre companies is ‘Oh our audiences don’t care about that’. And I’m like ‘Really? Have you asked them?’

FK-C: So moving to another hot potato, I thought we could talk a little bit about Othello. I’ve heard you quoted saying that you don’t think this play should ever be performed again.

AT: [Laughs].

FK-C: I wonder if you could talk about the hot potato-ness of this play?

AT: I think people constantly strive to recuperate the play so that it is not necessarily a production that is about the demonization of black masculinity, but is instead a critique of a culture that demonizes black masculinity. But I think that recuperative stance is almost impossible to achieve with Othello for a whole host of complex reasons. Part of it is just the text itself. Part of it is our production history, the weird production history in which minstrelsy, the American tradition of having white actors black up to mimic black masculinity and to debase it, came out of a production of Othello. So American minstrelsy and Othello are intimately tied together and its almost impossible to uncouple that history. So I feel that while there are all these really great efforts to recuperate the play so that it is not constantly vilifying black masculinity again but is instead a critique of a culture that wants to vilify black masculinity, just ends up vilifying black masculinity. It’s kind of a toxic play, and I think Othello’s not alone in being one of Shakespeare’s toxic plays. I do think The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew…

FK-C: Absolutely.

AT: …have the exact same problems and they are unique in Shakespeare’s canon in that people want to recuperate them, and they just resist, those plays resist that recuperation.

FK-C: Why do you think Othello resists that recuperation?

AT: I think because of the structure of the play. It has a comic structure which is unusual in Shakespeare’s tragedies where the set-up is very comedic. An older man marries a younger woman and she potentially has an affair on him. Or it is a girl who’s running away from her father to marry someone he doesn’t approve of, that’s another comic structure. And the comic structure of Iago being the interlocutor with the audience…

FK-C: Yes.

AT: … and who’s like ‘hey I’m going to let you in on something’ and so the audience knows more than the titular character Othello. So those comic structures are part of what makes it so that the play resists, it resists becoming recuperative and instead the audience ends up having to be in this weird complicit role with Iago. It’s an uncomfortable stance and it is entirely unique in Shakespeare’s tragedies. We don’t have that kind of structure set up in any of Shakespeare’s other tragedies.

If we were to acknowledge that this is a toxic play, and that part of it is just the structure of the play itself, part of it is the weird history as I said before, it might make sense to have white actors play the part so that you could have dialogues about fantasies of black masculinity. This is not a real black man. Othello is not a real black man, right? This is a fantasy of black masculinity and what happens when that fantasy gets trotted out over and over and over again, it’s toxic, right? So you could potentially have a production that does that well, and so I think if there is a way for a theatre company that’s really woke… [laughter]… then it would be possible to have a white actor play that part but again it wouldn’t be about ‘oh this is a great part of a white actor’, it would be about ‘this is about a fantasy of black masculinity and what happens when we take ownership of the fact this is a fantasy’. It would be interesting. But the theatre company would have to have… like it’s not enough to do that kind of production. You need to scaffold it, right?Like, so you need to have printed materials about the history of minstrelsy, about fantasies of black masculinity, about all the different types of… like and then you’d need to have post show discussions. And these are things… you know, great, right? In my fantasy world every theatre company has oodles of money and they can do all of this. In reality, a lot of theatre companies are strapped. They don’t have enough money for anything let alone scaffolding this controversial production. So I realise what I’m asking for is a huge ask. But then I would just say don’t do Othello!

[Laughs]

AT: Maybe stay away from that one…

FK-C: Well on that note, we should end there. Thank you so much.

AT: Thank you.

IG: As part of the Shakespeare and Race festival, Keith Hamilton-Cobb performed his incredible solo play American Moor. In it, his character examines the experience and perspective of black men in America through the metaphor of Shakespeare’s Othello, a play with which he has a complex relationship. His performance highlights some of the issues and provocations Ayanna proposed, and examines the American relationship to race and Othello. Here’s Keith Hamilton-Cobb with an extract from American Moor.

[Extract from American Moor].

Keith Hamilton-Cobb: Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice. In matters of race, throughout my American life, whenever some white person, well-meaning or otherwise, has asked me to be open, they have invariably mean, see it my way and in this instance, in this play, that is unacceptable. You think I want to you your Othello, and god bless you, you have every right to think that. But it’s your first mistake. And you’re not alone. It’s Brabantio’s too. Man, I have got so much to talk to you about. Put down your little brief authority as you are certainly most ignorant of what you are most assured and talk with me. Tell me what scares you. Tell me what hurts you. Tell me what makes you aroused. Go deep. Engage me even though you think it might be a huge mistake. Have the fearlessness to challenge me with your beliefs. But also the valour it takes to have those beliefs challenged. Forget all that is familiar to you. Look at me. Listen to me. I might know.

IG: So, is Othello an unperformable play? Well, Farah sat down with Aaron Pierre, who is playing Cassio in our current production of Othello, to ask about his experience of performing to Globe audiences, and his interpretation of Cassio.

FK-C: Can you talk to us a little bit about your experience of performing Othello in the Globe space, what is it like to work with that audience?

Aaron Pierre: Firstly, you know, it’s just been a massive honour to be working on that stage, which has been something that I’ve really wanted to do for a very long time. And what’s increased the enjoyment of working on that space is working on a play which is as rich as Othello is. I think all of Shakespeare’s works are timeless and they all somehow, although they were written hundreds of years ago, have a comment on today, somehow. I think that’s definitely one of the most beautiful things about Shakespeare. But you know, in terms of this play specifically, you know it’s been a real, a real joy to perform that. And you know really, really invest in the story and engage with the audience on a level that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. There is no fourth wall at the Globe. You know, you can really see the whites of everybody’s eye and they can see yours. You know, there is nowhere to hide, there’s no place to pretend, almost. You know, the audience, every day, you can’t come off stage without them letting you know whether you’ve told them the truth or not.

FK-C: This, this play is very much a play about race, isn’t it? I mean I think there’s some controversies around that, I think a lot of directors will say ‘ok, that’s one element of the play’. But do you think that the Globe audience is particularly sensitive to that issue in this play and the way in which you guys are staging it?

AP: Personally, I like to think that the people who come to the Globe and watch the shows that are put on at the Globe are very aware of what’s happening socially and globally. So it has been exciting to take this play to an audience which I believe is very aware and is very conscious, you know obviously, you know, you can’t speak to everybody after the show, once they’ve seen it. But from people that I know who’ve come to see the show, they’ve been very touched by the performance, especially with the dynamics that the characters have created, which is testament to Claire [Van Kampen], who’s directed it, as well as the company. Andre [Holland]’s Othello is such a, it’s full of such grace and intelligence as well as tragedy at the end. You know, he really manages to capture this dignity of the role which I think is really beneficial to the way we tell this story.

FK-C: Now you’re playing Cassio. It’s really fascinating that there is a multi-racial cast in this production. I’m wondering how you feel that playing Cassio as a black man, how is that being injected into your role, what are you inferring from the play itself by that particular casting mode?

AP: I think, I think that’s… I’ve always wanted to play the role of Cassio actually, and I’m not sure if that’s a thing that people have ever really wanted to play. Maybe so. But for me it’s always been a thing, and I think the reason that I’ve always wanted to play Cassio is because he’s, he’s so poetic in the way he articulates himself and it’s such an effortless poetry, you know, it doesn’t feel as though it’s forced. The way he speaks is so eloquent but it’s as if he’s making general conversation, it doesn’t seem difficult for him. So that’s always been a character I wanted to play. And in regards to being a black man playing Cassio, I definitely feel as though it brings additional layers to the story itself, the themes and an example of that is at the end when Othello takes his own life, after the tragedy of the story, the man replacing him is very similar. And although it’s, you know, an ambiguous ending, I think that gives a lot of room for thought.

FK-C: Yes.

AP: And I think the play does that anyway but you know, having this situation which we’re presented with and the audience is presented with our version, I think it definitely opens more questions and you wonder whether, you wonder what Cassio may do different.

FK-C: As you know, the Globe is paying a lot of attention to the topic of race as it applies to Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s moment, but also to how we cast Shakespeare now and how we want, particularly at the Globe, for our productions to reflect our audiences, right? This is the world we live in, we are a multiracial society. Why do you think the topic of Shakespeare and race is such an urgent topic at this moment?

AP: I think it’s an urgent topic because we’re in a place in 2018 where you know, sadly, we are not in a place where there is 100% acceptance, there is not 100% understanding. We’re working towards it, I feel that we are working towards it. However, you know, we still have a long way to go and that is the reason I would say this is such an urgent conversation, because what it does is brings to the forefront, at least the topic in the creative industry, of how do we reflect our society and how do we make it as inclusive as possible? Because art does influence reality, they influence one another and if we can make art something that is very inclusive and doesn’t look down on anybody, doesn’t judge anybody, I feel like that’ll definitely contribute to us making progress in leaps and bounds.

FK-C: There is one more question that I want to ask which I’m curious about. As an actor of colour, do you feel like theatrically in film and television that the world is your oyster as you come into this profession, do you feel like there are lots of opportunities?

AP: I feel as though, like I said before in regards to one of your other questions, I do feel as though, you know, we are making progress. We are, and I do feel, I do genuinely feel this togetherness and this motivation to move forward and to really reflect our society as it exists internationally and to make it as inclusive as possible. However, you know, we do have a way to go and hopefully that gap between where we are now and where we should be won’t be too long before that comes together and um, um, everybody feels as though they’re represented.

[Extract from American Moor]

KH-C: Her father loved me, oft invited me, still questioned me the story of my life. First up, a little white man is asking me, if I have any questions about being a large black man, enacting the role of a large black man, in a famous Shakespeare play about a large black man, which for the last fifty, sixty years or so, has been more or less wholly the province of large black men.

[Laughter].

No. I aint got no questions. But you should.

IG: For actors performing in classical drama, their experiences begin long before they hit the professional stage, and go all the way back to school and training.

Farah sat down with Leaphia Darko, who was performing in our production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, to talk about some of her experiences in drama school, and what it means to be an actor of colour studying and performing Shakespeare and classical drama.

FK-C: As you know, we recently had a festival on Shakespeare and Race where we looked at questions around how artists and scholars and students of colour are engaging Shakespeare and classical drama, and I wonder if you can talk a little bit about your experience of classical drama either as a drama student or as a professional actor of colour?

Leaphia Darko: So as a drama student, there’s a lot of things going on where you’re mostly doing really technical, like breath work and stuff like that, before you get to have a go at classical texts. I would sometimes feel a bit unsure about how to approach it, but the reasons I found it hard to approach as an actor of colour were the same as any piece of classical theatre which is until you get more sure of who you are as an artist, it’s hard to know whether you’re playing a white person or playing a character. Because often you’ve only ever seen it staged with a white person in the role, you know it was written by a white person for white people, and I was fortunate to have many amazing teachers at school but there weren’t really any teachers of colour. So the people teaching me were really great at the technical side of things, but essentially I think one big sort of change at drama school is people talk about truth a lot, and you’re going what is that, and essentially, you’re sort of discovering it’s various shades of being yourself. Which sounds a bit like the opposite of what you want to do to play a character, you want to not be yourself, and there is a certain element of that. But there is a really crucial part of playing someone who isn’t you which involves linking it to something really personal about you, and so sometimes I felt as a drama student of colour, that was slightly in conflict for me with the idea of say, doing a Chekhov and being Nina in it, because in my imagination Nina is like a blonde, white girl. And I’m like ‘that’s not me’. So how do I contribute a bit of myself to this whilst I feel that either because I’ve misinterpreted the exercise, or because I don’t have any role models to see people of colour playing Nina, for example, or the staff don’t know the vocabulary to use when teaching classical work to actors of colour. But I feel like I can’t possibly play a white person without… I mean… I don’t… you can’t do it, how would you do it? But I felt that was the same with Shakespeare, there is a certain… maybe, imposter syndrome or a sense of ‘we all know this is ridiculous but I’m only doing this because it’s a drama school exercise and I get in the real world, it would be silly for me to play Juliet’ thing? It was a thing I used to impose on the work before I’d then get to grips with the work. And whether or not anyone else in the room was thinking that, and probably they weren’t, you know, my colleagues in my year or the staff, I was thinking that because I didn’t have any other reference, I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about it, the staff I don’t think necessarily had the vocabulary to talk about it. But it was something I need to discuss in order to have that off of my mind and to be able to go at the work. Obviously my white colleagues wouldn’t have had to wrestle with that. As a drama student, it was a case of ‘Who am I?’. Am I me in all my blackness, and my working classness and whatever as Juliet, or am I supposed to be playing a white person in which case, oh my god, how’s that work? Often times, even if I felt that the conversation could be had, it was time that I wasn’ spent becoming better at acting, it was time spent worrying about things that weren’t about the scene and the character and who am I and why am I there.

FK-C: The craft.

LD: Yes, and little technical things about where you can sort of cadence in the line and the iambs and the stresses and all that kind of thing is what you want to be getting better at and instead, you’re sweating in the corner thinking oh god, how do I do this? And often when you do a project, there’s often like a mood board. People put pictures up of the inspiration behind the piece. And I found often at school, all of the people on the mood board were white, which I never questioned. We did a sort of movement exercise to music around that time, of let’s find a portrait from the 1700s and be the person in the portrait and it suddenly occurred to me that when I was googling, it was all like white people in the portraits and I thought, there’s a huge imaginative leap that I’ll have to make or not engage with it at all. And so I started to assemble a Pinterest of black people in history and portraiture and photographs because I felt I was sort of cleaving myself apart trying to be true to myself in Chekhov but feeling like Chekhov was for white people because black people weren’t invented yet, sort of thing. And to my complete amazement, very, very quickly on Pinterest, I just typed ‘black, Russians, 1800s’, tons of pictures came up of these black Cossacks with afros in full regalia and I learnt about Hannibal and so I was like, why are the people teaching me Chekhov either aware of but feel it’s a bit off topic to bring it into the room, or, as I suspect, are unaware of it but are teaching me as a student of colour that material of that period. Another thing that I found hard as well in training, and trying to find my way through what acting is for me, sort of thing, is that you’re learning less externally focused. You’re learning to not worry so much about how you look, and to just play the scene but race is an external thing in a lot of ways, and so when you’re worried about race, you can’t sit in the scene because you’re looking at yourself from the outside in. And so you’re trying to do that and speak in verse at the same time, and in a way that makes that person seem like a real person of now, and I think there is a way of doing Shakespeare that makes it a bit rose-tinted. As in, wasn’t it great then? And I think there is a way to play it where it’s like, ah it’s still so visceral now and you kind of want to be doing that, and that’s demanding enough. So to then not be able to have 100% of yourself concentrating on that, which is where the fun is, and to have to sort of siphon off part of your energy and part of your brain and your resources to worrying about will people that come and see this see me and then not believe it. Because that’s you looking at yourself from the outside. Looking at myself from the outside and going, oh, I’m a black person. To me, it’s like I know I’m a black person, but black to me doesn’t mean… I mean I’ve of mixed heritage. But for me the black people in my family, we listen to like classical music, and we eat maybe a bit of Ghanaian food, but we also like spaghetti Bolognese. Do you know what I mean? And I feel like if you read certain newspapers…

FK-C: I’m a Pakistani who listens to country music… [laughs]

LD: Yeah. And it’s like… so even like doing that, I have to then try and imagine what blackness means if you don’t encounter black people much or you read certain newspapers or whatever that imagination is that is imposing something on my skin shade that has actually nothing to do with me. And then worry about that imagined idea of blackness is anything to do with Juliet and then whether… it’s just such a…

FK-C: It’s a mental gymnastics.

LD: Yeah. And none of that helps me play that. You know I’m an old Hollywood fan, which is a lot of fun but also as a person of colour also very painful. It’s kind of an odd thing. I’m very much aware of the people that came before me in entertainment and it’s just not as hard for me as it was for them. So as much as I’ve had to wrestle with these things, Hattie McDaniel didn’t get to do what I get to do. I get to do this because a ton of other people, probably infinitely more talented than me, spent their whole careers playing maids and the only way to right that is for me to do me, instead of sort of deciding what I think my casting is, or um, worrying about whether people are quote unquote ready to see someone with my melanin levels speak in verse or playing a classical part.

IG: That’s it from this year’s Shakespeare and Race festival, but the conversation doesn’t stop here. Here’s Farah…

FK-C: We wanted to do a Shakespeare and Race festival to highlight some of the major questions that we have about race in performance and in scholarship. But we didn’t want to do just a one off event, right? This was a week-long event, some really important conversations were happening during that week, we don’t want it to stop there, we want to continue engaging with this topic, working with a diverse range of scholars and practitioners, and so we’d like to have more conversations, we want to invite more people to come here and engage with us on this topic so this podcast is really one way of achieving that, but also we want to have another event next year, and the year after that, so this is really just the beginning.

IG: The Shakespeare and Race Festival was part of a summer season which looked at all aspects of casting, programming and representation on our stages, and the conversation continues… In the next few seasons there’ll be plenty more provocations and experiments around how we can stage classical drama to reflect our contemporary society. Coming up in the winter season will be Richard II, the first ever company of women of colour in a Shakespeare play on a major UK stage… And alongside our season of shows, we hold q and a’s and panel discussions which scaffold these productions and offer you a chance to have your say. Working with artists, scholars and audience members we must make sure we continue to interrogate and debate these vital issues of race, casting and representation. We’d love to see you there.

You can catch Othello in the Globe theatre until 13 October.

This episode was presented by me, Imogen Greenberg, and Dr Farah Karim-Cooper. Our theme music is from the album Mali in Oak and was recorded in our very own Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. To find out more about Shakespeare’s Globe and what’s on, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’ll be back with more stories from Shakespeare’s Globe so subscribe wherever you got this podcast from.

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