Walterdale Drops Othello Over Casting Controversy
“And what’s he then that says I play the villain?”
― William Shakespeare, Othello
Edmonton’s community theatre venue, the Walterdale, has decided to cancel its production of Othello just as the show was about to open. Controversy had erupted over the decision to cast white female actor Linette Smith in the lead as Othello, a role normally reserved for a black male actor. Apparently the theatre had received some public backlash over the casting choice and Smith was alarmed when she received what she perceived as a threat on her Facebook feed. At that point, she elected to resign from the part.
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“This is a heart-breaking decision, but as a community of volunteers and artists, we can’t continue with a production where the safety of members of our cast has been threatened,” said Adam Kuss, President of the Board of Directors of Walterdale Theatre.
“Other members of the theatre community expressed their concern to us as well,” said Anne Marie Szucs, Artistic Director of Walterdale and Director of Othello. “We understand and appreciate those concerns. The vision we were presenting for this 400-year-old play was a post-apocalyptic world where traditional power structures were inverted and where the focus was on the battle between the sexes. We’re sorry this caused offence. We will continue to build on the respectful interactions we’ve had with community members on this topic, and continue to engage with and welcome any groups or individuals who want to get involved in our productions.”