Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Paul Robeson Discuss Othello
In 1930 Robeson starred in the title role in William Shakespeare's Othello in England, when no U.S. company would employ him for the part. Peggy Ashcroft co-starred as Desdemona. He would reprise the role in New York in 1943, and tour the U.S. with it until 1945. His Broadway run of Othello is still, as of 2009, the longest of any Shakespeare play. He won the Spingarn Medal in 1945 for his portrayal of Othello. For the Broadway production Uta Hagen played Desdemona, and José Ferrer played Iago. Robeson's final portrayal of Othello in 1959 at The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon was directed by Tony Richardson and also proved to be his theatrical swan song.
Robeson also played the role of Joe, which was written for him, in the 1928 London production of Show Boat, and repeated his performance in the 1932 Broadway revival of the show, the 1936 film version, and a 1940 Los Angeles stage production. His rendition of "Ol' Man River" is widely considered the definitive version of the song with Robeson making alterations to the lyrics to transform it from a song of black lament to one of defiance and perseverance.