The Last Othello by Robert Joseph Ahola

Synopsis

Paul Robeson and Uta Hagen who once headlined the longest running Shakespeare ever on Broadway, and who spent a large portion of their careers on "The HUAC Blacklist," meet 20 years later, just before Robeson's last performance of Othello at Stratford-on-Avon. A poignant portrait of the most powerful influence for political change in the history of Black America, The Last Othello gives a shattering insight into Paul Robeson in his later years - a Promethean actor, singer and activist who ultimately became a casualty to his own courage and unwillingness to bend.


The Cast

  • PAUL ROBESON: An historical figure of remarkable stature, Paul Robeson, as he is played here, should be a person of color, about six foot three inches tall, athletic, compellingly magnetic, and yet with a carriage that is starting to show some signs of both wear and frailty. For decades he has led the fight not only for people of color but also for downtrodden workers, and though he is still both a driving force and a lightning rod for activism wherever he goes, his demeanor—by custom of clever manipulation of the moment—is always one that forces others to respect his position as being on the side of Right.

  • UTA HAGEN: By now, this great lady of the stage is in her mid forties and is starting to gray. There is a presence about her that is perceptibly melodramatic to the point of carrying traces of arrogance. And yet there is also a timeworn grace that only women of a certain age—those who have done much— seem to have about them.

  • MARY URE: A famous but all-too-brief a flame. Young wife of playwright John Osborn and the new Desdemona, she is pretty and deferential, but clearly outmatched by her co-star and her predecessor. She is also under the drag of her own demons (alcoholism) which may or may not show through in this piece.

The Setting

This play has two scenes in one setting, (Scene 2 is an Epilogue): Paul Robeson’s Dressing Room at Stratford on Avon. It is replete with a large lighted set of mirrors and comfortable, if inexpensive, theatre furniture, including a chaise lounge. Properly set at angles toward the audience the mirrors can and should play an extraordinary fourth character in the play, and should be able to reflect the characters’ every aspect whenever they speak. This is a creative conundrum of course to lighting and set. But, as any good production should challenge both the design and the director, it will enhance the dramatic power of the presentation five fold.

Also available from this Playwright

 


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