Theater Review / FRINGE THEATER PRESENTS ETHERAL TONI MORRISON PLAY

Fringe Theater presents Toni Morrison’s ethereal performance piece Desdemona Feb 19-23 at 7pm (and 5pm on Feb 22) in the performance space of the Sidebar Key West, located at 504 Angela Street.

Toni Morrison is better known for her novels, which include The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Beloved. In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Desdemona is one of two plays that Morrison wrote. The first play, intriguingly, has disappeared in all but title. 

Desdemona, which she wrote in 2010, was created in collaboration with the famed theater director Peter Sellers and toured the Fringe Theater circuits.  The idea was born when Sellers proclaimed Shakespeare’s Othello to be without social relevance today. Morrison challenged the thought and was inspired to find a way to “talk back” to Shakespeare using her own language.

“We decided it was important for a troupe called Fringe to – at least occasionally — choose a play whose roots belong to a more experimental realm,” explains Fringe’s Managing Artistic Director Rebecca Tomlinson, and the play’s coordinator. “This is a multimedia exploration of the healing that occurs – or doesn’t – in the afterlife. It moves fluidly in time and space – or outside of time and space.”

The story is based on Shakespeare’s Othello and the murder of Desdemona, but in Toni Morrison’s play, it is Desdemona who guides us through the story.

“Because of the presentational nature of the piece, we’re working with a large creative team that includes a choreographer, a videographer, yoga instructor, two lighting designers, a singing bowl musician, and of course, our very talented actors,” continues Rebecca.

The actors are Martha Hooten, who plays Desdemona, and Su Nubia, who plays a variety of characters in the story including Othello. “When the play toured the Fringe circuit, there was only one actor. She played all the roles including Othello. Our production expands the cast but keeps the idea of using a female actor to play Othello. It makes the storytelling quite intriguing … and sensual,” adds Rebecca.

Morrison’s writings often pull from folklore and song. The actors have been instrumental in creating the musical backdrop that gives the play a sound that is both tribal and celestial. Movement choreographed by Shelia Bellefleur enhances the African and the Other-Worldly feeling inspired by the music. While the layering of the video elements, created by Aramis Ikatu, add to the story and the play’s setting.

Tickets for Desdemona are available online at www.fringetheater.org or by calling the Fringe Box Office 305-731-0581.  Seating is extremely limited, so advance tickets are encouraged. Desdemona runs Feb 19-23 at 7pm, and Feb 22 at 5pm.  General Admission Tickets begin at $35. For more information, email info@fringetheater.org.

Fringe Theater is Key West’s community-focused theater. Fringe is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to creating unique opportunities for people to see and do theater. Learn more at www.fringetheater.org