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Redfern Arts Center Presents 'Shakespeare In American Communities'

Aquila Theatre Company’s production of "Othello" is part of a National Endowment for the Arts initiative.

KEENE 9/4/03 - Othello, Shakespeare’s classic tale of passion, envy, and violence, takes the stage when Keene State College’s Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond presents two performances of the play by the Aquila Theatre Company. A full-length production will be seen on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m.; a special one-hour guided tour of the play with a question-and-answer session for high school students takes place on Friday, Sept. 26, at 10 a.m. Members of the company will remain after the evening performance for a question-and-answer session with the audience. The evening performance will be signed for the hearing impaired.

The performances are part of "Shakespeare in American Communities," a 50-state, 100-community tour of Shakespeare’s plays by six of the nation’s finest theater companies. The tour is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest. Corporate sponsor for Aquila’s visit is The Keene Sentinel.

Tickets for both performances are available through the Brickyard Pond box office. Tickets for the Friday morning high school guided tour are $7 per student. Tickets for the evening performance are $22 and $18 for the general public, $20 and $16 for seniors and KSC faculty and staff, $11 and $9 for youth 17 and younger, and $5 for KSC students with ID. Tickets are available at the Brickyard Pond box office, 603-358-2168, or on the web at www.keene.edu/racbp.

Aquila has been one of the most popular theater companies to visit the region for the past six years, captivating audiences with innovative productions of Cyrano de Bergerac, Julius Caesar, Much Ado about Nothing, The Odyssey, The Comedy of Errors, and Birds. The New York Times described the company as "…an extraordinarily inventive and disciplined outfit," while the Boston Globe said, "If energy be the food of Shakespeare, then Aquila Theatre Company of London serves up a smorgasbord."

Set in a hotbed of racial hatred, jealousy, and mistrust, Othello explores the destruction of a noble spirit. Othello, a Moor and mercenary of the Venetian army, secretly marries Desdemona, the daughter of a highly placed senator. Othello’s ensign, Iago, enraged at being passed over for promotion and envious of Othello’s conquests, plots his revenge.

As Othello’s trusted friend and confidant, Iago cunningly uses his position to plant the seed of jealously and doubt in the Moor’s mind about Desdemona’s fidelity. Meanwhile, with brilliant, Machiavellian duplicity, he advises Desdemona to act in ways that will only fuel her husband’s suspicions. In this fascinating, psychological character study, only the audience is aware of Iago’s villainous plan. He confesses to them throughout the play and they watch, captivated, as he makes "the net that shall enmesh them all."

Drawing from the company’s expertise, Aquila’s production finds a setting capable of bringing relevance and clarity to this great Shakespearian tragedy. An original musical score with an epic and filmic quality and Aquila’s ability for retelling classics in a vibrant and visual way heightens and intensifies the experience.

Aquila tours extensively throughout North America and Europe and is the Company in Residence at New York University’s Center for Ancient Studies. It has presented regular runs in New York and London, with multiple performances in major cities across the United States.

"A great nation deserves great art," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "We are proud to present to America the greatest playwright in the English language. And we are proud to present performances of the highest caliber. ‘Shakespeare in American Communities’ exemplifies the Arts Endowment’s commitment to artistic excellence, access to all Americans, and leadership in arts education. Through this initiative the NEA will revitalize the longstanding American theatrical touring tradition that harkens back to the 18th century."

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