Actor Aldo Billingslea never gets tired of Othello. Currently playing the title role for his fourth time, in a shimmering new production at Marin Theatre Company, the acclaimed actor always discovers new meanings in the text, finds new ideas and interpretations—even in lines he’s spoken hundreds of times.
“With a great playwright like Shakespeare, that happens all the time,” he says. “I learn new things with every new production. I’ll be onstage, and I’ll hear something that strikes me for the first time, something I’ve never noticed before, something that makes me see things in a new way—and Othello is one of those plays where that can happen with every single performance.”
Billingslea, who performed for seven seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, teaches Shakespearean acting at Santa Clara University. In a sprawling outdoor production in 2004, he played the title role in Othello for the Marin Shakespeare Company, and is bringing his favorite Shakespeare play indoors to the far more intimate environs of the Marin Theatre Company.
The production is directed by MTC’s artistic director Jasson Minadakis, for eight years the producing artistic director (and cofounder) of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. Though Minadakis has directed 19 of Shakespeare’s plays, this Othello is the first Shakespeare play Minadakis will have staged since relocating to Marin.
“Jasson is like a scholar when it comes to this play,” says Billingslea. “He knows so much about Othello. He’s come up with some really wonderful approaches to certain portions of the text.”
Though it may be hard to believe, this is also the first time Shakespeare has been staged at Marin Theatre Company.
“It’s the perfect spot to see Othello,” says Billingslea. “Othello has been described by scholars as Shakespeare’s most intimate play, and for an audience, this production, in a 230-seat house, is going to be a very intense and memorable experience.”
Memorable too, for Billingslea, who relishes every new opportunity to speak Othello‘s achingly beautiful language.
“The last act of Othello is so grand, Othello’s final actions so huge, so packed with the poetry of life and death,” he says. “Even having played this part three times before, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been able to completely satisfy myself, artistically, that I’m getting every drop out of those final moments. For me, this is my Mt. Everest. I can’t get enough of it.”