A Black Actor’s Unrequited Love for Shakespeare

One of the pleasures of American Moor is its portrayal of how an actor builds a character, and we come to see that a character is not only himself but also an anthology of all his relationships. To play the black warrior Othello, you have to also be able to play Desdemona, to imagine what it would be to see yourself through the adamant, principled tenderness that makes her the counterpart of Iago, as implacable in love as he is in hatred. Keith Hamilton Cobb shows us both. The audition that is the action of the play evolves into a struggle between the Actor and the Director for the soul of Othello, Shakespeare’s tragedy being played out within the audition, a lived reality: “And you think you’re not in this play?” the Actor, played by Cobb, says to the Director, as their collision becomes a matter of life and death for him.

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