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Subversive's White Boy Othello

For the fifth installment of their Black Power Performance Series , Subversive Theatre is presenting their adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello. That is not especially surprising. What might cause a few double-takes is the casting. White actor Jeffrey Coyle is playing the moor opposite an all-African American cast. They are calling the production White Boy Othello.

“By ‘flipping-the-script,’ pitting a white Othello opposite a black ensemble, our version seeks to add to the already-explosive discussion of racial injustice in America today,” they explain. Adapted and directed by Subversive Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director Kurt Schneiderman, the production features Dee Perry as Iago, Candace M. Whitfield as Desdemona, Verniece Turner as Emilia, and Greg Howze as Cassio. Perry is best known for his portrayals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Whitfield has earned critical acclaim for her performances in shows like The Mountaintop.

This is not the first race-flipping Othello. In 1997, Patrick Stewart famously played this, the most sympathetic of all Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, opposite a black cast at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC.

For Subversive’s White Boy Othello, we can expect a text that goes “back and forth between Shakespeare’s original text and much more Twenty-First Century forms of street language.” The intention is “to offer a leaner, meaner, edgier, and unrelentingly urgent re-imagination of this timeless masterpiece.” In addition, members of the cast have added their own real-life stories to the mix in this ensemble-developed piece.

Subversive’s “Black Power Performance Series” seeks to offer “a radical perspective on race, resistance, and re-imagination.” Now in its fifth year, previous offerings have included Oyamo’s I am a Man, set against the backdrop of the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis; Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun; August Wilson’s Radio Golf; and last year’s production of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, which imagined the last night in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

White Boy Othello continues through March 7th at the Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Avenue, in the third floor of the Great Arrow Building. For more information call Subversive Theatre at 716-408-0499 or visit their website at

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