Cast of friends in Othello
Monday, July 16, 2001 -- Though summer theater performances get put together in triple-time, two of the leads of "Othello," which the Hampshire Shakespeare Company opens Wednesday, have years between them, including some non-theatrical past rehearsals.
Those came the night before the weddings of both men, who served as best men for each other.
Aaron Crutchfield, a Boston actor who plays Othello, and Bill Stewart, a fourth-grade teacher in Leverett, met in seventh grade, the company reports. "The trust these two men have for one another makes them especially suited to develop the play's underlying themes of violence between men, and most potently, domestic violence," it says.
The two have been in plays before together ("Iphigenia at Aulis" in eighth grade was the first) and both earned theater degrees from UMass, where they acted together and played Ultimate Frisbee.
Of course, it's not as if others in the production are strangers. The cast includes many returning talents, among them Walter Carroll, Christine Stevens, Lon Bull, Mo McElligot, Ed Dunn and Ijod Schroeder.
Stewart, who plays the devious Iago, says of his friendship with Crutchfield: "The first day we met we got into a fight. We've pretty much been best friends since. We can never agree who won the fight (it was me, of course.) ... The relationship between Othello and Iago is complex and subtle. We walked in to these roles having already established the trust needed to deeply explore that relationship comfortably and safely. The stage combat has been relatively easy too because of the trust we have, and because we already how to fight. I win this time too, of course."
"Othello" is being directed by Sarah Wilson and Dean Acheson. In presenting this story, they say they have not shied from portraying the violence inherent in the story of an African general who rose to be the protector of Venice, at a time when it was an economic and cultural center of the Renaissance but involved in Mediterranean battles for control of trade. "Like many contemporary depictions of violence, there is no redemption to it, nor no satisfying resolution, apart from the destruction of those who wrought the violence," the directors write. "It may make many audience members uncomfortable. The intention was not to offend, but to try to stay truthful to the play."
"Othello" runs through Aug. 5 in the meadow at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley, at 193 Bay Road. For information, call 584-8118.