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Black Baroque Series: Debra Ann Byrd and Becoming Othello: A Black Girl's Journey
In December 2020, the National Arts Club hosted the world premiere of Debra Ann Byrd’s solo show, Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey. This 126-minute, tour-de-force, living memoir explores a young woman’s acting journey on the road to becoming Othello, her trials and triumphs with race and the classics, some memorable experiences on her gender-flipped journey, and her fun-loving and tumultuous youth. The solo performance is complemented by moving multimedia images, lyrical language from Black urban playwrights, William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and the King James Bible—along with soulful songs and the music that shaped her life in her beloved Harlem. As a speaker, Byrd will comment on the journey that led to Becoming Othello, her own relation to Shakespeare and Baroque theatre, and her experience playing the role of Othello as a Black woman.

May 3, 2021 06:00 PM in Central Time (US and Canada)

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Debra Ann Byrd
Debra Ann Byrd, a native of Spanish Harlem, New York, is an award winning classically trained actress and producer who recently was named Writer-in-Residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Artist-in-Residence Fellow at the Folger Institute, an A'Lelia Bundles Community Scholar Arts Fellow at Columbia University, a Virtual Artist-in-Residence at The Center at West Park, and Artist-in-Residence at Southwest Shakespeare Company, where she recently reprised the role of Othello, winning her the 2019 Broadway World Phoenix Award. An emerging playwright and scholar, she recently completed her new critically acclaimed solo show "Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey." She is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Take Wing And Soar Productions and the Harlem Shakespeare Festival, a support organization serving classical artists of color and arts groups in New York. She is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Sidney Berger Award.
Noémie Ndiaye
Assistant Professor of English & Theater and Performance Studies @University of Chicago
Noémie Ndiaye’s work explores the relation between theater and the social, political, and cultural struggles of early modernity. At the core of those struggles and of her interests lay crucial processes of racial, gender, and identity formation, which she studies within a framework that is comparative, transnational, and often transhistorical. Noémie's work is at the intersection of early modern literary studies, critical race studies, theater and performance studies, and comparative literature. Her upcoming book, "Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race," dissects the stagecraft used in early modern theater to represent and racialize Africans and Afro-descendants across borders in early modern England, France, and Spain. The book is based upon her doctoral dissertation, which won the Shakespeare Association of America’s J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Award in 2018.