Corey Jenkins Jr. works at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and he agreed to help out with an evacuation training video a while back.
The Baltimore native had one line, something about a zone being clear.
But he also had a presence, a standout voice.
And that small part led to an audition for The Rude Mechanicals’ latest production — a powerful take on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Othello.
This was written in England during the time when a lot of white English people wanted to make anyone who had dark skin move out of the country. A lot of people who were referred to as Moors — they were from northwest Africa and were Muslim — had sought refuge in England and the English people didn’t want them there.
Ellicia Elliott, director
Jenkins won the title role. The show opens Jan. 21 at the Uptown Theatre in Richland.
Jenkins believes Othello will provoke questions, conversation. “I think the characters will resonate,” he said.
Othello is a tragic hero. A military leader who recently eloped with Desdemona, he’s strong, smart and honorable.
He’s also different. “He’s the only black man in the military, and some people have an issue with that,” said Ellicia Elliott, the play’s director.
“(The play) was written in England during a time when a lot of white English people wanted to make anyone who had dark skin move out of the country,” she said. “A lot of people who were referred to as Moors — they were from northwest Africa and were Muslim — had sought refuge in England, and the English people didn’t want them there.”
The play deals with issues of race, gender, jealousy and psychological effects of war.
Elliott, who is also The Rude Mechanicals’ artistic director, set the production in modern times.
The staging also is unique. The actors will be surrounded by the audience, instead of set apart from them on a traditional stage.
The result is a more intense and intimate experience.
Jenkins is no acting newcomer; he started acting as a kid and has appeared in multiple productions.
But Othello is his first Shakespeare role, and his first show in the Tri-Cities. He’s excited about the challenge, he said.
Jenkins is joined on stage by several veteran performers.
Anna Newbury, who plays Desdemona, has a degree in theater performance from Central Washington University and has trained as an advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. She teaches theater, physical acting, music, dance and stage combat.
Along with her role as Desdemona, she’s also the production’s fight choreographer.
She knows audiences can sometimes feel intimidated by Shakespeare, but his work is relatable and filled with universal truth, she said.
“There’s a reason that Romeo & Juliet has been told a thousand different ways. There’s a reason these stories live on,” Newbury said.
In Othello, “I hope people will see human beings. Tragically human people who are all trying to understand the world they live in,” she said.
The cast also includes Geoff Elliott as Iago, Patrick Killoran as Cassio, Cyndi Kimmel as Emilia and Adam Brault as Roderigo.
Ellicia Elliott said she expects audiences to find plenty to connect with when they see the show.
“Out of all of Shakespeare’s plays, this is the one that, anytime I’m watching the news, I’ll see something and think, ‘This is like Othello,’ ” she said. “I think people are going to see experiences they’ve had, their friends or family have had, something they’ve seen on the news — they’re going to see that on stage.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. Jan. 21-23 and 28-30.
Tickets are $5 for front row groundlings seats on the floor; $15 for ground-level seats for students, seniors, educators and military; $18 for general admission on the ground level; $50 for royal gallery seating, which is elevated and includes perks such as an autographed cast poster and food and drink specials.
A backstage pass is available for $10 and includes first dibs of seating in the pass holder’s seating area, as well as a 6 p.m. pre-show discussion.
Tickets are available at www.rmtheatre.org and the door.
A bar will be provided by Castle Catering, and Ethos Bakery will provide concessions.
The show is recommended for mature teenagers and older.
Uptown Theatre is at 1300 Jadwin Ave., Richland.
IF YOU GO
What: The Rude Mechanicals’ production of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello.
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 21-23 and 28-30.
Where: The Uptown Theatre, 1300 Jadwin Ave., Richland.
Cost: Tickets are $5 for front row groundlings seats on the floor; $15 for ground-level seats for students, seniors, educators and military; $18 for general admission on the ground level; $50 for royal gallery seating which is elevated and includes perks such as an autographed cast poster and food and drink specials.
A backstage pass is available for $10 and includes first dibs of seating in the pass holder’s area, as well as a 6 p.m. pre-show discussion.