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An Interpretation Of William Shakespeare’s 'Antony and Cleopatra,' Set In Pre-Revolution Colonial Haiti?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act November 13, 2012 at 10:12AM

Last we wrote about award-winning African American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney was in May, when we announced that he was teaming up with Barry Jenkins (Medicine For Melancholy) on what was described as a triptych feature about Liberty City that is being produced by Borscht Corp (who were also behind Barry's short film Chorophyl).
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Tarell Alvin McCraney
Tarell Alvin McCraney

Last we wrote about award-winning African American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney was in May, when we announced that he was teaming up with Barry Jenkins (Medicine For Melancholy) on what was described as a triptych feature about Liberty City that is being produced by Borscht Corp (who were also behind Barry's short film Chorophyl).

No word on where that project stands at this time, but, as I learned this morning, the seemingly always-busy McCraney is now set to write and direct a new play that got my attention, because of its content. 

Specifically, next theater season (2013/2014), South Florida’s GableStage, England’s Royal Shakespeare Company and New York’s Public Theater will team to debut McCraney’s new adaptation/interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, BUT, with what we could call a twist: it'll be set in Haiti, in the 1790s, in colonial Saint-Domingue on the eve of what would become a successful Haitian uprising against French rule, led by one Toussaint L'Ouverture.

The estimated $2 million project was initially revealed yesterday, with a premiere set for November 2013 in Miami; afterward, it'll move to the Public Theater in NYC.

Further, it's been reported that the cast will comprise of American and British actors, with auditions scheduled to be held in Miami, New York and London.

As noted, McCraney will direct the play, which is being described as a bold new take on this difficult play.

No word yet on how exactly his interpretation will work Shakespeare's tragedy into pre-revolution Haiti, or vice-versa, but I'm definitely curious to find out.

In addition to working on a script for Barry Jenkins to direct, Tarell, a graduate of Yale School of Drama, fans will be familiar with Tarell's recent The Brother/Sister Plays - a breakthrough trilogy of new plays on modern-day coming-of-age stories of kinship, love, and heartache, set in the bayou of Louisiana and loosely draw on, broadly, Yoruba mythology.

The works have been produced in theaters across the country, including in my neck of the woods (NYC); and although I didn't get to attend, words like "gritty," "lyrical," "urban" and "mythic" have been used to describe the trilogy of works; I suspect the same will be said for this new work.

McCraney's name comes up often in my inbox, news feed, alerts, etc. Even though he works primarily in theater, and this is primarily a film blog, he's definitely a talent to keep an eye on, especially given how fluid movement between worlds has become these days - Hollywood coming to Broadway, Broadway going to Hollywood, mixing here and there.

This article is related to: Tarell Alvin McCraney, Barry Jenkins


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