One of the many features that made the Winter Exhibition Night such a success on December 2 was the series of live performances of Shakespeare’s Othello by the students of the Intensive Shakespeare Seminar class. At 6:45 in the auditorium, the show kicked off with juniors Rosalie Toupin and Gabrielle DaSilva performing the “Willow Scene” (Act IV, Scene III).
In the scene, Toupin played Desdemona, the wife of Othello, and DaSilva played her friend, Emilia. Before beginning, Toupin introduced the scene, explaining, “I am kind of like the pure, innocent character whose husband thinks that I am cheating on him, so he is going to kill me after this scene. This is my final moment of despair.”
During the scene, Emilia helps Desdemona into her nightwear as the two discuss love, leading to the Willow Song. The song, Desdemona says, is from a maid that her mother had named Barbara, who died singing it. When Desdemona begins to sing it, it is an omen of impending death. Toupin’s singing voice carried beautifully throughout the whole auditorium as she slowly and softly exaggerated the sadness in the song about a crying woman, every other line repeating: “Sing willow, willow, willow.” Both Dasilva and Toupin showed off their acting chops, their characters provoking emotion from each other, which demonstrated their close relationship. They exuded a confident sense of stage presence that came from working with someone who you like and will support you.
One of the audience members was Physics teacher Christopher DiCarlo, who was there to see Toupin, his advisee, perform. “I knew she sang outside of school but I didn’t know how good she really was,” he said. DiCarlo confessed he had never really been a Shakespeare fan, but very much enjoyed the performance.
One of the other Othello performances was by sophomore Spencer Royston. Rather than presenting a live show or video though, he presented a unique radio show that played from the loudspeakers. Before presenting it, he introduced the scene, explaining, “The main character Othello loves Desdemona, but the villain Iago is trying to convince him that she is not faithful to him [Othello].”
He also went on to explain the pros and cons of presenting Shakespeare without any visual aid, saying that while it was hard to do the sound effects of a scene with sword fighting, what was interesting was the new focus on how the words were said. He then played the two to three minute clip where he voiced both the characters of Othello and Iago, digitally editing his voice to be lower for the heroic Othello and higher for the villainous Iago. One of the power-lines that stood out was said by Othello: “Death and damnation, oh I’ll tear her [Desdemona] all to pieces.”
The performance was powerful and easy to follow because the voice recording was clear. Also, because it was not a video, it did not have anything visual that would be a possible distraction or be possibly misleading.
Sophomore Elisa Alexander closed the Othello performances of the night with an audio performance of Othello, which took the form of a piano piece that she composed and recorded herself playing. In her introduction, she described that the scene she was performing was an intense fight scene between the main characters, which she wanted to express the intensity of. For a couple minutes, the sound of a piano set a calming effect throughout the auditorium because the instrument by nature has a lovely, smooth sound. However, Alexander’s quick notes and rapid changes from high to low expressed suspense and unrest throughout the rest of the scene. Alexander stood on the stage and her bashful smile expressed pride in her work and a passion for playing the piano.