John Warner Smith is the second University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate in a row designated Louisiana Poet Laureate.
Among the tests of a literary classic are its endurance over time and its ability to inspire other creative works. What is it about the Tragedy of Othello that has inspired so many artists?
That's the question The Othello Project - a yearlong, community-wide investigation of the Shakespeare Legend - wants to answer. Planned for the 2003-2004 academic year, The Othello Project will be a series of presentations to investigate the various artistic "takes" on the story, according to project coordinator Sarah Stravinska with UL Lafayette's Performing Arts Department.
"One of two events per month will present the four films and host discussions by various experts," said Stravinska. "Our target audience is high school age and above and the community enthusiasm for the project is great."
Two composers, Verdi and Rossini, have written operas based on Shakespeare's drama. Three choreographers, José Limon, modern dancer, Lar Lubovitch and John Butler, ballet, have created dance works interpreting the themes of the play and there are at least four films inspired by the story.
"Clearly, the story has relevance in today's society," said Stravinska. "Themes of prejudice, both racial and sexist, are portrayed in the play to the point out the injustice caused by such attacks on a person's humanity. The universal themes of love damaged by insecurity and jealousy are also explored."
The format for the presentations include four films, two versions of the play, two operas, the ballets and the modern dance work.
"People have different learning styles," said Stravinska. "Some need to 'back in' to reading a great literary work. Because we are a visual society it is believed that once the play has been seen in its various incarnations, people will feel more comfortable attending panels and discussions of the work."
The panels will illuminate fundamental social, cultural, psychological and political issues from Shakespeare's time and how those issues still affect society today.
"Armed with this understanding, reading the play will become less intimidating," said Stravinska. "All of the events are aimed toward helping citizens deepen their knowledge and understanding of Shakespeare."
The first part of The Othello Project series will be the viewing of Andrew Davies' film "Othello" on Sept. 17. The film will start at 5 p.m. in the Bayou Bijou in the Student Union at UL Lafayette. The event is free and open to the public.
Other events scheduled for The Othello Project include:
• Oct. 15 - the presentation of the film "Othello" at 5 p.m. in Bayou Bijou;
• Oct. 30 - PASA presents the Shakespeare play at the Heymann Theatre at 7:30 p.m. with pre-curtain lecture by Dr. Susan Nicassio.
• Nov. 19 - the presentation of the film "A Double Life" with Ronald Colman at 5 p.m. at the Bayou Bijou.
College students as well as high school students will be discussing Shakespeare's work as part of the series.
" By offering many views of the play Othello, it is hoped that people will be less afraid of Shakespeare as literature and more willing to read his works," said Stravinska. "As relevance to our current time is revealed through explorations of the one play, people may consider that other plays may also be relevant. For students, the hope is to break up what I call 'curricular sclerosis' by exploring the material across the various disciplines."
For more information on The Othello Project, contact Stravinska at 482-6144.