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Antony and Cleopatra

Directed by: Estelle Parsons

Interart Theater

New York, NY

 

Antony and Cleopatra (1979)

 

 

Estelle Parsons directed the 1979 production of Antony and Cleopatra at Interart Theatre. Latinx actors played the Romans and spoke some lines in Spanish and “fair-skinned actors” played the Egyptians and spoke their lines entirely in English.[1] Richard Madeline described the production as “fundamentally radical, since it was partly an expression of the actors’ sense of playing from the margins.” [2] For Holmberg, "their physical appearance brought to mind several archetypal Latin American caudillos - Castro, Che, Peron, and Somosa - appropriately outfitted in berets, army fatigues, and ammunition belts."[3]

 

The portions in Spanish, which were minimal, were from a translation by Luis Astrana Marín. Theatre reviewer Thomas Lask quotes Parsons as saying, “‘I wanted it to be multiracial and multilingual, because I wanted to get away from the idea of just hearing Shakespeare,’” to which he then comments, “That certainly sounds like the weirdest reason for putting on a play of Shakespeare’s at all. If you don’t like hearing him, don’t do him.”[4] “During the course of the performance, however, I realized that the bilingual production was actually making me listen to the English more intently. In a new linguistic context Shakespeare's overly familiar lines seemed new.”[5]

 

The production starred Francisco Prado as Antony, Kathleen Gaffney as Cleopatra, Carlos Carrasco as Caesar, Arnoldo Santana as Enobarbus, and Aurilio Padron as Eros.

 

Joe Papp saw this production and as a result, she became the first woman to direct a production at the New York Shakespeare Festival (now the Public Theater). In 1986 he asked Parsons to head up a multiracial acting company “to present Shakespeare on Broadway for school audiences.”[6] The company was similar to the short-lived Black-Hispanic Theatre Company that Papp started in 1978 for general audiences.

The Interart Theater was considered a “women’s theatre.”[7] According to Sara Leigh Carney, dramaturg at the Interart in 1985, “‘The real issue--or dilemma--is how do you get your work taken seriously as a woman.’”[8]

 

 

CARLA DELLA GATTA

OCTOBER 2022

 

For a thorough review of the production, see Holmberg.

 

[1] Sara Munson Deats, “Shakespeare’s Anamorphic Drama: A Survey of Antony and Cleopatra in Criticism, on Stage, and on Screen,” Antony and Cleopatra: New Critical Essays, ed. Sara Munson Deats, New York: Routledge: 2005, 1-94, 66.

[2] Richard Madeline, Antony and Cleopatra: Shakespeare in Production. Ed. Richard Madeline, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 129.

[3] Arthur Holmberg, “Estelle Parson’s Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Quarterly, Summer 1980, Vol. 31, No. 2, 195-19. 196.

[4] Thomas Lask, “Theater: An Antony in Spanish and English," The New York Times, 2 May 1979.

[5] Holmberg, 196.

[6] Samuel G. Freedman, “Students to Meet Bard on Broadway,” The New York Times, 6 January 1986.

[7] Parsons referred to as “the Womens’ Interart Theater” but other articles refer to it only as “Interart Theater.” Estelle Parsons, “Stories from the Stage – Estell Parsons.” Broadway’s Best Shows. 14 Dec 2020. Accessed 13 Feb 2021.

[8] Francesca Primus, “Women’s Theatres Around Town: Feminist or Contemporary?,” BackStage, Vol. 26, 6 Dec 1985.

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