What's Old is New in "Othello"

What's Old is New in "Othello"
Othello (Allen Fortes) embraces Desdemona (Ashley Opstad) in the Cal Poly Pomona theatre department's presentation of Shakespeare's Othello. The play, directed by Linda Bisesti, runs through Nov. 24.

What does the idealized 1950s have in common with a Shakespearean tragedy set in the 1600s?

?A great deal,? says Linda Bisesti, director of Cal Poly Pomona?s upcoming production of Othello by William Shakespeare. ?The play is 400 years young, but the themes?such as racism and domestic violence?are universal and, unfortunately, still true in some places today.?

First performed in 1604 at the court of King James, Othello tells the story of a husband and wife?s love twisted by deception, misplaced trust and jealousy.

In Cal Poly Pomona?s adaptation, which will run through Nov. 24, the tragedy?s setting will shift to the 1950s.

?The 1950s is the perfect setting or backdrop for Othello, a play in which racism, jealously, deception and false appearance are dominant themes,? says Bisesti. ?The play?s action depends heavily on the characters not seeing things as they actually are, like our collective idealized myth of the 1950s. It was during that time that seeds of civil and domestic unrest were sown, only to explode later. ?

A board member of the Los Angeles Women?s Shakespeare Company, Bisesti has ensured that the university?s production will maintain the integrity of the classic. However, she hopes the updated setting will make Shakespeare?s style less intimidating and more accessible to younger audiences, as well as allow inveterate Shakespeare enthusiasts to see the material anew.

Bisesti is a theatre professor at Cal Poly Pomona, and a well-known vocal coach and working actress. One of her most recent roles is on NBC?s Hunter, airing in late November.

To purchase tickets for Othello, contact the ASI Box Office from Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at (909) 869-2855.