Jon Corelis wrote:
> When the actress Jill Clayburgh once played Desdemona in a Los Angeles
> production of Othello, her performance was so bad that when Othello
> smothered her, the audience broke into applause.
Poor Jill. She deserved a better fate. If it was LA, who played
Othello, Chris Rock or one of the Wayans brothers?
Seriously, in 1964 Hunter College celebrated the 400th birthday of
Shakespeare by presenting Othello. "Stank" doesn't quite do it. The
Iago was a good one, Neal Flanagan, who kept going even after he got hit
in the eye with a sword during the early-on fight scene. Nothing like
efficient choreography, is there? The Othello I also remember. He was
a Black folk-singer named Robert Kya Hill. He was okay in
conversational passages but when he hit emotional climaxes, he both
galumphed with his body (no ability to move gracefully) and his voice
broke into a horrid imitation of the Kingfish from "Amos and Andy."
I don't remember Desdemona's real name. Susan something. Just as well.
I was the culprit who wrote the review for the college newspaper. I
tore her apart. Ah, the confidence of being 20 again. I heard when she
read it she sat in the dressing room and cried. I'm sorry, Susan
whoever you are, but you really did stink. The director wanted a tall,
willowly blond. She got that. She was beautiful. But she had a voice
I later associated with the late Anna Nicole Smith: whiny and squeaky,
kind of Betty Boop on steroids. When Othello strangled her and she
"came back to life" for Emilia, her voice made the audience laugh. I
don't think Big Willie intended that reaction.
Oddly, the better death scene is in Verdi's opera. When Placido Domingo
played the Moor, regardless of the Desdemona, it was clear he leveraged
his forearm to break her neck. That would account for the soprano being
able to sing the last few measures before she actually dies. It also
supports Shaw's preference for the opera over the play. But that's only
because I agree with him.
Ken Wolman http://bestiaire.typepad.com http://www.petsit.com/content317832.html
"I have been watching you; you were there, unconcerned perhaps, but with a strange distraught air of someone forever expecting a great misfortune, in sunlight, in a beautiful garden."--Maurice Maeterlinck, Pelleas et Melisande