Stage Door News

Stratford: “Othello” begins previews at the Stratford Festival

Friday, May 3, 2019

Director Nigel Shawn Williams brings Shakespeare’s Othello firmly into the here and now with a gripping contemporary production that will officially open the Stratford Festival’s 2019 season on Monday, May 27. Previews begin today at the Festival Theatre.

“We live in a world where truth has little value and must battle through the mire of misinformation just to be heard,” says Williams, who made his Stratford directorial debut with last season’s acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird. “Values, principles, and honour are moralities that are slowly crumbling away from us on a global scale. The world we live in and the world in which this production of Othello is set are the same. This is a world in which words are weaponized, and the fear of ‘the other’ can lead to violent and tragic conclusions.

“Love and peace and trust, which are the bonds that hold Othello and Desdemona together, are at frightful risk. Iago’s own jealousies, insecurities, and self-hatred are turned into a poison that is used to destroy these bonds. We once again witness, with tragic consequence, how men can so easily hold on to a corrosive and insidious patriarchal system that works on fear and saves them from ridicule, rather than to trust and seek the source of real truth: women. If we allowed a spirit, a life force, such as Desdemona’s to flourish in our world, how much better our existence might be.”

“Bringing Othello into the 21st century feels like shining a mirror on our world today,” says Artistic DirectorAntoni Cimolino. “This play not only has a lot to say about power and misogyny, but also the notion of truth, and how easily it can be twisted and turned against good people. In a contemporary setting, these themes feel especially urgent. Othello is very much about us right now.” 

Whispers of suspicion feed irrational jealousy in this psychological drama, one of Shakespeare’s greatest and best-known tragedies. Undeterred by the differences in their backgrounds and life experiences, Othello and Desdemona defy prejudice to be united in marriage. But deadly malice lurks where the newlyweds least expect it, as Othello’s trusted comrade and confidant, Iago, resolves to destroy their happiness at any cost. In a calculated, drawn-out mind game, Iago begins planting in Othello’s mind seeds of unjustified suspicion that will grow into a deadly obsession. 

Michael Blake, in his eighth season, takes on the title role. He is joined by Laura Condlln as Iago’s wife, Emilia, Gordon S. Miller as Iago, Amelia Sargisson as Desdemona and Johnathan Sousa as Othello’s faithful lieutenant, Cassio.

The creative team includes Designer Denyse Karn, Lighting Designer Kaileigh Krysztofiak, Composer and Sound Designer Verne Good, Fight Director Anita Nittoly and Intimacy Director Siobhan Richardson.

At the Forum, Iago’s deceit will provide a fascinating topic for several events. In Taking the Bait (July 17), philosopher Mark Kingwell, Women and Gender Studies PhD candidate Huda Hassan and assistant director Jennifer Stewart examine how our contemporary society has dulled our facilities for critical thinking. Then, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Ramshaw and Dr. Mark Rapoport, professor of psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, will take a look inside Iago’s cunning mind in Motiveless Malevolence (September 18). Turning the attention to Othello, The New York Times co-chief theatre critic Jesse Green will join Festival Literary and Editorial Director David Prosser to discuss Who Is Othello Today? (July 11). 

For tickets and a full list of the Forum events offered almost every day throughout the season, please visit:

For tickets, visit

The Stratford Festival’s 2019 season runs until November 3, featuring Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry VIII, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Private Lives, The Neverending Story, Mother’s Daughter,Nathan the Wise, The Front Page, The Crucible and Birds of a Kind.

Photo: Michael Blake as Othello. © 2018 David Cooper.