Recently I saw a production of Othello at the Broward Center for the Arts with an actor friend of mine. It was staged in a beautiful room (The Center contains many individual Theaters, classrooms, and rehearsal rooms.) The play was produced by a small local theater company, and every actor was fantastic in each of their roles.
Besides the play itself, I got to thinking of the space it was performed within. Specifically, how such a space is fairly common, definitely not a bar or club but a space specifically for theater, but the idea that all a theater company needs is space and an audience. And that particular theater company definitely had the audience, as the sizable room was filled to capacity on the production’s closing day.
It is fascinating to me that a company can tell a story like Othello that starts in Venice and continues and finishes on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, all on a stage and a space on that stage that is probably no larger than the room I’m sitting in now writing this.
The stage is designed to facilitate the movement of actors, and for the staging of Plays from Shakespeare to Checkov. And usually the locations are indeed the main living rooms in houses, or a castle here, or a town center there. The BBC were able to adapt one of their TV studios for a live TV adaptation of Shakespeare’s history plays entitled The Age of Kings. In one TV studio the set-designer created a set that included the interiors and exteriors of castles and battlefields. For the TV audience at home, the illusion was thus created that they were watching right there on their TV screen scenes and events in the lives of some of their countries most important monarchs. In his own time, Shakespeare’s plays brought the history of England’s monarchy’s to life in a livelier fashion than the History books within which those histories were written down. As to why theater has been popular from the time of the ancient Greeks all the way to today and why public readings of selections from history books have never been a popular form of entertainment is a subject for another time.
Even without a TV studio, a computer desk or a table at a coffeeshop has room and space enough to imagine anything from a small village to a thriving city like Venice or an island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean. And then all is left is the people who inhabit those cities and places, and the human dramas we often so read about in History Books and which are almost always the stuff of great literature. Even as Shakespeare dealt with personal dramas, so to do contemporary playwrights and it is what most all TV dramas are about. People follow their favorite TV shows for the main characters as well as their personal stories even as some TV shows are within the context of science-fiction worlds or supernatural stories set in the here and now.
Just like Shakespeare said All the World’s a Stage, it’s also true that anywhere can be a stage, a space, for theater, TV, and films. Even thinking of music festivals with their multiple stages with days of music, there is always in this world 24-hour Cable TV, movies, and the Theater, independent films being filmed, TV studios running at full capacity, along with the living human drama of the billions of people on this planet.