Mendes Othello To Kick Off UK/AZ Festival Tonight

News   Mendes Othello To Kick Off UK/AZ Festival Tonight
 
As New Yorkers await news on whether English director Sam Mendes' revival of Cabaret has finally found a home at NYC's Club Expo, word comes that Mendes' staging of Othello for the Royal National Theatre will visit Arizona's Herberger Theatre Center, Sept. 30-Oct. 4.
l-r: David Harewood, Simono Russell Beale in Othello

l-r: David Harewood, Simono Russell Beale in Othello

Photo by Photo by Mark Douet

As New Yorkers await news on whether English director Sam Mendes' revival of Cabaret has finally found a home at NYC's Club Expo, word comes that Mendes' staging of Othello for the Royal National Theatre will visit Arizona's Herberger Theatre Center, Sept. 30-Oct. 4.

The show officially kicks off a month-long "UK/AZ Festival," with Princess Anne and British Actor Michael York expected to attend the Sept. 30 premiere. According to Othello spokesperson Michele Robins, of the Arizona Theatre Company, Princess Anne has suspended public duties for a week following the death of Princess Diana, but will be in Arizona for Othello. "Her people arrive next week for a walk-through of the royal premiere," said Robins. Asked whether the UK/AZ Festival would make reference to the Royal tragedy, Robins said, "I do know they have condolence books at a couple of locations in Phoenix that they'll send to Buckingham Palace."

Already known is that the closing event will be a concert by the Rolling Stones, part of their upcoming U.S. tour.

As for the Mendes Othello, David Harewood stars in the title role, alongside Claire Skinner and Simon Russell Beale. Harewood played opposite Vanessa Redgrave in Antony And Cleopatra at NY's Public Theatre. Beale (Iago) won a 1996 Best Supporting Actor Olivier Award for playing Mosca in Volpone at London's Royal National Theatre. Skinner (Desdemona) has worked at the Donmar Warehouse, Aleida and Aldwych Theatres.

Also in the Othello cast are Maureen Beattie, James Hayes, Jamie Leene, Crispin Letts, Francis Maguire, Trevor Peacock, Ken Oxtoby, Clifford Rose, Colin Tierney, Indira Varma and Fergus Webster. Paddy Cuneen will provide music for the show, which has sets by Anthony Ward and lighting by Paul Pyant. Before Phoenix, Othello played at the Cottesloe Theatre (at the National) and at the Salzburg Festival. After Phoenix, Othello will reach Japan, Korea and China. Asked if New York might be on the schedule, Robins said, "possibly in 1998."

Mendes is the same director whose Cabaret is in negotiations to open on Broadway this season. He recently was reported by Variety to have been chosen to direct Stephen Sondheim's new musical, Wise Guys, though Sondheim's office has said Mendes is only one of the directors being considered.

Actor York, who starred in National Actors Theatre's revival of The Crucible and in the film Romeo And Juliet, will star in the one night-only show (Oct. 25). This tormented character will be judged by Frank X. Gordon (a real AZ jurist) and cross-examined by prosecuting attorney Grant Woods (AZ's attorney general). Local dignitaries, law firms and a selected law student will also be in the cast. Elizabeth Falk directs her own script, which envisions what today's legal system might do to the dour Dane. Falk made her directorial debut at Washington DC's Kennedy Center with the Chinese opera "Lan Ying," and has since worked at the New Globe Theatre in London.

Falk's play begins just after Hamlet has stabbed Polonius. The Dane has been judged sane and competent to stand trial. Since the jury decide Hamlet's fate, the trial's outcome is always in question.

Designed to create a partnership between Arizona and the United Kingdom "through arts, business, trade and education," the UK/AZ Festival runs through Oct. 30.

Also bringing theatre to the mix will be Arizona's Actors Theatre, with director Matthew Wiener staging "The Essential Henry V," Oct. 10-26. Wiener's adaptation concentrates on Henry's spiritual relationship God and his doubts about the nature of kingship.

Arizona Theatre Company in Mesa will offer Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (Oct. 10-25); Peoria's Theatre Works offers Coward's Hay Fever, Oct. 17-Nov. 9. Phoenix Theatre will have Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Sept. 19-Oct. 20). British puppeteer John Styles will be a guest performer at the Great Arizona Puppet Theatre (Oct. 8-12). Southwest Shakespeare Company will stage Hamlet Oct. 2-11. Phoenix Symphony will offer a mix of Shakespeare's text and Mendelssohn's music for their "Midsummer Night's Dream."

Other events include an exhibit of 20th century drawings and watercolors from the British Council Collection, and a new planetarium exhibit on the Gemini Project -- the U.S./U.K.'s partnership on developing a giant, infrared telescope in Arizona.

For tickets ($40-$50; $175-$200 opening night) and information on Othello call (602) 252-8497.

--By David Lefkowitz

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