Before the opening and at the end of intermission of every performance at American Shakespeare Center, actors turn musicians to serenade the audience. Usually a rousing, fun time, at the start of Othello, the mood shifts when Brandon Carter and Topher Embrey step forward to lead the ensemble in “Glory” by John Legend and Common. ASC actor Chris Johnston, ASC’s Manager of Music, talks about the choice.
When I think about the process of selecting music for our current production of Othello, which I went through in June, I am reminded of what our country looked like at that moment.
The protests for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were at their peak and every day the situation was intensifying and spreading across the globe. I wanted to make sure we did a song that could speak to this important moment.
This song was suggested by Constance Swain, and I immediately fell in love with it. “Glory” was first released in December of 2014 by John Legend and Common. When “Glory” was released, it was right after and in response to the protests in Ferguson.
This song was used in the movie Selma which documented the protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This song speaks to protest in 2014, it speaks to protest in 1965, and it speaks to protest in 2020.
“Glory” by John Legend and Common performed live by Church of the Glades, Coral Springs, Florida, 2016.
When we hear this song before the show begins, it’s a perfect opportunity to remind the audience that even though this play is over 400 years old, the need for civil liberty and equity are just as important today, if not more so. If we plant those seeds before the first lines of the play are spoken, hopefully our audience will watch this production with that message reverberating in their subconscious. – Chris Johnston
Othello is playing in rep with Twelfth Night at American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA through October 18, 2020.
You must be logged in to post a comment.