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N.C. A&T’s Theatre Arts Program Presents “Othello”


Laurence Olivier in black face as Othello.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Theatre Arts Program tackles one of Shakespeare’s most intimate family tragedies, Othello, beginning Feb. 23.

The full title of the play is “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice,” written by William Shakespeare in 1603. The production is a rare example of a dramatic work by Shakespeare that remained popular in performance during the latter half of the 17th and 18th century and remains relevant today.

North Carolina A&T’s theatre is named for Paul Robeson, an American actor (1898–1976) who famously played the role of Othello in the Theatre Guild production in New York in 1943-44. It became the longest running Shakespeare play in the history of Broadway. But there were mixed reactions to Robeson as Othello in London and New York.

The son of an escaped slave, Robeson made his name as a singer and athlete before developing his acting career. Having faced racism at home, he first played the role, alongside Peggy Ashcroft’s Desdemona, Othello’s white wife, in London in 1930.

Robeson told the press in 1930: “They certainly wouldn’t stand in America for the kissing and for the scene in which I use Miss Ashcroft, roughly. The audience would get very rough: in fact, might become very dangerous.”

His Othello of 1930 was a West End success, but racist prejudices lived on in many reviews, while offstage, Peggy Ashcroft received threatening letters.

Robeson used the new mass media to insist the play was a challenge to the modern world. “It is a tragedy of racial conflict,” he told transatlantic radio audiences. “Othello in the Venice of that time was in practically the same position as a colored man in America today.”

Continuing the legacy of Robeson, this 2023 Othello production is skillfully directed by Xulee Vanecia J. Under her guidance, the searing social commentary of prejudice, betrayal, abuse and jealousy masterfully unfolds. Othello, a Black Moor and military commander serving as a general of the Venetian army, seems to have everything — power, position, and passion. He soon finds his world decimated by the intense mind games played upon him by someone he trusts the most – his closest confidante, Iago.

As the love of Othello and Desdemona is destroyed by envy and fact is twisted by innuendo, someone will pay the ultimate price. Shakespeare’s thunderous drama explores who we trust and the price we pay for choosing poorly.

Production Dates and Times;

Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3 and 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.

Performance Location:

Paul Robeson Theatre on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University

For tickets, call (336) 334-7749 or visit