The World’s a Stage: Becoming Othello, A Black Girl’s Journey, on now at Seattle Shakespeare Company, weaves references to the Bard’s tales into writer-performer Debra Ann Byrd’s own compelling journey. Byrd’s autobiographical solo show closes its Seattle run this weekend.
Why would audiences care?
What would it matter to the world?
I can hear my ancestors calling
History of Theatre: About, By, For, and Near — a world-premiere play entering previews this weekend at ACT, in a co-production with The Hansberry Project — endeavors to highlight under-told accomplishments of Black artists in theatre over the centuries. (Read more about it here.)
The World’s a Stage: Becoming Othello, A Black Girl’s Journey, Debra Ann Byrd’s touring solo show on now at Seattle Shakespeare Company, is the perfect unintentional prequel.
In Becoming Othello, Byrd hearkens back to 1604, when Othello was first performed, drawing parallels between the play, its historical context, and Byrd’s own life, both in her quest to perform classic works at a high level and in her attempt to drag herself out of the depths of despair as her young daughter is suffering through a terminal illness.
Three visuals from the show are seared into memory: Byrd dragging a black trash bag, filled with her belongings as she becomes homeless in her teens; a photo of her daughter, Martha, illuminated at center stage among a collage of personal photos that form the backdrop; and Byrd fully outfitted in regalia, proudly claiming her place as Othello (and spiting naysayers who advised she stick to August Wilson).
Shakespeare aficionados will appreciate Byrd’s extensive catalog of references to the Bard’s works woven throughout. Those much less so may find themselves feeling lost on occasion, as I did. But all can appreciate the stories of doubt, despair, trials, and triumphs that form Byrd’s beautiful narrative arc and her mastery of the centuries-old material.
Written and performed by Debra Ann Byrd (Producing Artistic Director of Southwest Shakespeare Company; founder and Producing Artistic Director of Harlem Shakespeare Festival). Directed by Tina Packer (founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company).
The World’s a Stage: Becoming Othello, A Black Girl’s Journey runs through 1/29 at Seattle Shakespeare Company (Center Theatre – Seattle Center Armory, lower level). Tickets are $45-$62, here. Accessibility notes: restrooms near the theatre are closed for renovation, resulting in an inaccessible maze to find any (which are gendered and multi-stall); wheelchair accessible restrooms upstairs may be reached by elevator. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible. Financial accessibility: $10 rush tickets available by signing up for Groundlings membership; see info here.
Run time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.