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Northwestern Trains All Eyes on Othello with Free, Public Events

September 19, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In a campus first, Northwestern University is inviting its entire community -- from freshmen to full professors, department assistants to top administrators - as well as the Evanston community to join in the reading, exploration and enjoyment of a single great book, Shakespeare's “Othello.” The One Book, One University initiative kicks off Thursday, Sept. 21, with free popcorn and an outdoor screening of “O,” an Othello-inspired film set in a small town high school and starring teen heartthrob Josh Hartnett.

Modeled after Chicago's One Book, One Chicago program and dubbed “Project Othello,” the initiative will feature eight weeks of free, public programming around Shakespeare's renowned tragedy, including a Nov. 1 lecture by Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka. Note: A complete schedule follows.

“Othello lends itself to so many entry points and concerns,” says Wendy Wall, English professor, Renaissance literary scholar and major force behind the “one book” initiative. About a Muslim living in Venice who converts to Christianity, Wall said the play was chosen for its multicultural themes, its intense look at the “green-eyed monster” called jealousy, exploration of villainy, influence around the world and meditation on theatre itself.

Over the summer, Northwestern freshmen entering the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and School of Communication got a jumpstart on Project Othello. Not only did the University mail them free copies of “Othello,” it created an interactive Web site that allowed professors and students to talk to one another about the play and view images of 17th century Venice, watch clips from film adaptations of “Othello” and learn just what London theatres looked like in Shakespeare's day.

Twenty-five Othello Fellows, students with interests and majors that range from history to theatre and from economics to radio/tv/film, “will serve as cultural commentators at Othello events and raise questions about how 'Othello' has been reinterpreted, absorbed in cultures around the world, and remained fresh for 400 years,” Wall said.

A schedule of “Project Othello” events follows. All take place on the Evanston campus.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 21, 8 p.m., the East Lawn of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive: An outdoor Screening of "O,” a film update of “Othello” set in a small town high school, stars Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles and Josh Hartnett. Free popcorn.

TUESDAY, SEPT. 26, 4:30 p.m., Hagstrum Room, Room 201 of University Hall, 1897 Sheridan Road: "Othello in Different Contexts" is a roundtable discussion with Northwestern sociologist Wendy Griswold, historian Ed Muir and literary scholar Wendy Wall who will explore how Othello is read by experts in different disciplines.

THURSDAY, OCT. 5, 7 p.m., Room 107 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road:  Marjorie Garber, Harvard University William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and American Literature and Language and of Visual and Environmental Studies, will present a lecture titled, “Black and White and Read All Over: Othello and Modern Culture." An eminent humanities scholar, her book, “Shakespeare After All” was chosen by Newsweek as one of 2004's five best nonfiction books.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 11, 8 p.m., Block Cinema, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive: A film screening of Orson Welles' “Othello” will be preceded by an introduction by theatre and English Professor Tracy Davis. 

THURSDAY, OCT.  19, 5 p.m., Room 102 of University Hall:  “Othello in Film Around the World” is a roundtable with Northwestern's Scott Curtis, Kevin Bell, and Olateju Adesida about a German silent film version of “Othello,” a British film update set in the age of jazz titled “All Night Long,” and a the Othello-inspired Nigerian film called “Thunderbolt”.

SATURDAY, OCT. 28, 7 p.m., McCormick Tribune Center Forum: In "Othello Kabuki Style," Shozo Sato, director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's production of “Kabuki Lady Macbeth,” will discuss connections between Shakespeare's western text and eastern and Zen texts of Kabuki theatre. Performances from his own Kabuki-styled Othello titled “Othello's Passion will be part of the event.

MONDAY, OCT. 30, 5 p.m., Hagstrum Room, Room 201 of University Hall: “Othello as Literary Progenitor” will look at “A Season of Migration to the North,” a novel by Tayel Salih, one of the most important contemporary Arabic writers. Exploring the cultural dissonance between Africa and Europe will be faculty members Nasrin Qader, Christine Froula and Evan Mwangi.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 1, 5 p.m., Room 107 of Harris Hall: 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian writer and political activist, will speak on “Othello's Dominion, Immigrant Domain." Soyinka's plays, novels, poems, essays, and memoirs draw on the beauty and difficult politics of his native country.

MONDAY, NOV. 6, 7 p.m., Room 102 of University Hall: "Othello in Three Modes: Opera, Dance, and the Visual Arts" will explore three very different adaptations and interpretations of Othello, including a discussion of Verdi's opera “Otello” by Northwestern musicologist Jesse Rosenberg; José Limón's dance theatre work “The Moor's Pavane” with dance Professor Susan Manning; and mixed media artist Fred Wilson's 2003 installation at the Venice Biennale with DePaul University faculty member Francesca Royster.

TUESDAY, NOV.  7, 2 to 3:20 p.m., Ballroom of the Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center, 10 Arts Circle Drive: James Moreno will present a Limon Movement Workshop to give participants the opportunity to experience the José Limón dance technique. A pioneering modern dancer and choreographer, Limon is best known for his 1949 dance “The Moor's Pavane.” The public is  welcome on a first-come, first-seated basis.

THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 7 p.m., McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive: In “Othello in Performance,” internationally known director, choreographer, playwright David Bell will demonstrate how a single scene from “Othello” can be performed in strikingly different ways. Bell, a Northwestern professor of theatre, has directed numerous Shakespeare plays for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and is author and lyricist of “Hot Mikado,” a Gilbert & Sullivan adaptation. A panel discussion will follow featuring Barbara Gaines, Chicago Shakespeare Theater founder and director and Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) winner.

The Othello Project is made possible by Northwestern University's English department, Weinberg College of Arts and Science, Alice Kaplan Institute of the Humanities, School of Communication, School of Music, Office of the President, Norris University Center Bookstore and the Alumnae of Northwestern.

For further information, call (847) 491-7294, e-mail english-dept@northwestern.edu, or visit the Project Othello Web site that includes information about events, speakers, parking and directions to campus at www.english.northwestern.edu/othello.

Topics: Campus Life