An interview with Rick Boynton, Creative Producer at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST), about their upcoming production of Othello: The Remix by the Q Brothers. The show was a past recipient of a NAMT National Fund for New Musicals Writers Residency Grant.
This fresh urban take on Shakespeare’s tragedy is spun out and lyrically rewritten over original beats by The Q Brothers, America’s leading re-interpreters of Shakespeare through hip-hop (Funk It Up About Nothin’, The Bomb-itty of Errors). Whether you’re looking for a rockin’ night of rhythm and rhyme or a new way to think about Shakespeare, Othello: The Remix delivers an intense, high-energy spin like no other.
How did CST meet the Q Brothers?
We first met several years back when CST produced their show Bombitty of Errors, a hip-hop musical based on The Comedy of Errors. They approached us a few years later to see if we would be interested in developing a show based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. We agreed, developed the musical (Funk It Up About Nothin’) and premiered it here in our studio theatre.
Why did you commission them to adapt another Shakespeare play?
The idea for Othello: The Remix really found its way to us. The Globe in London was organizing a festival of Shakespeare’s work, each performed by different countries around the world, for the cultural Olympiad prior to last summer’s Olympic Games. They had seen Funkwhen we performed in London, had liked our work, and wanted us to represent the US by creating a hip hop piece based on Othello. It was an exciting opportunity and, quite honestly, a bit of a daunting yet exciting challenge. I always find those the most interesting, so we accepted.
What was it like to take a show created in Chicago to international audiences?
We had played Chicago, London, Edinburgh, Australia with Funk and were hoping Othello would have similar opportunities. After our premiere at the Globe was so well-received, we went to Germany and then spent the summer in Scotland. It is truly thrilling to watch a show transcend language barriers and/or cultural differences. As theatre creators, we all strive to move an audience in some way and when it happens, even when they don’t speak the same language, it is incredibly rewarding.
What do you hope your audience experience seeing this show in action back in Chicago?
This is the first time we have developed a show and not premiered it in our own space first. We are thrilled to share this work with our hometown audience and hope they will enjoy it as much as our international audiences have.
Why should everyone head to Navy Pier to see Othello: The Remix?
It has an incredibly fresh approach to the art form through a hip-hop lens. It is a show that is filled with big laughs yet packs a tragic punch. I am very proud of our work and hope all will come out to see it (besides, we let you drink in the theatre!).
For more information about Othello: The Remix, please visit www.chicagoshakes.com.