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Ten Questions for Dennis Henry

Othello rehearsals have begun, and we’re so excited to have guest artist Dennis Henry on board to direct. Read on to get to know him, and then go ahead and book your tickets for the show.

1. What made you want to work with STS?

I have worked extensively with Rick Blunt, the actor playing Iago. He had worked at Sweet Tea before and said, “I had a great time.” That was all the recommendation I needed. Also, I know that Jeremy Fiebig had come from the Mary Baldwin program and many of the philosophies of Sweet Tea are similar to that of the American Shakespeare Center. I love working on shows that have  lights on the audience and that respect Shakespeare’s text.

2. Why did you want to direct Othello?

I have studied Othello for years, and I often have my Intro to Theatre students read the play, but for some reason I had never worked on it before as an actor or director. The story is brilliant. It is so fast-paced, and the complex psychologies of both Iago and Othello are exciting to delve into.

3. How is this play relevant today?

Dennis: Othello is a play about manipulation. It is a play about one’s public persona vs. one’s actual character. It is about revenge. It is about jealousy. It’s about love. It’s about hate. This is the human condition. What do we really know about our friends, our family, our heroes and our politicians? We only know what we see. We rely heavily on “ocular proof,” as Othello puts it. But what do we really know?

Plus, Shakespeare foretold on-line dating in this play when he had Brabantio say, “Strike on the tinder, ho!” [rimshot]

4. What is your favorite play you’ve directed, and why?

My favorite play I have directed to this point is Silence by Moira Buffini, which I directed at the University of Nebraska. It is about a Viking prince who learns on his wedding night that he is actually a princess. It is also about the apocalypse and has a hallucinogenic mushroom scene. What else do you need in a play?

5. What is the best play you’ve ever seen?

So many to choose from! In 1997 I saw A Doll’s House on Broadway starring Janet McTeer as Nora. Her performance was certainly the best live performance I’ve seen. Also, I was impressed how straightforward the direction was. It was a 100-year-old play that many feel the urge to “update.” This production just “did the play” and it was remarkable.

6. What show do you dream of directing?

This answer always changes based on what mood I’m in, because there is so much awesome stuff out there. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is up near the top of the list these days. It’s a great story and I love the macabre.I would wanna do it around Halloween time.

7. Briefly devise an alternate ending for Othello.

Emilia kills Iago, saves Desdemona with CPR, and they run away together.

8. What would Othello or Iago’s theme song be?

“Ghengis Khan” by Miike Snow works for both. “I get a little bit Ghengis Khan, I don’t want you to get it on, with nobody else but me.”

9. What are you most looking forward to about your time in NC?

Returning to the Fayetteville Waffle House where I was mocked by the waitress for ordering unsweetened tea while at the National HS Speech and Debate tournament in 1998. (“I don’t know how ya’ll can drink it like that.”) Ironically, I am returning to work with Sweet Tea Shakespeare. I don’t think I’ll make that cultural faux pas again.

10. What kind of food do you like (so our fan group, the Sugars, can make local restaurant suggestions)?

Wings, Burgers, Pizza. Anything unhealthy that tastes good with beer.

 

 

Jen Czechowski

Master of Market at Sweet Tea Shakespeare