Peter Sellars, the renowned avant-garde theater director, and Ayanna Thompson, a prominent Shakespeare scholar, will discuss the ways Shakespeare remains relevant in our contemporary American world. From expressions of black rage to the challenges facing systems of justice, they hope to illustrate how Shakespeare’s plays provide rich texts through which the most pressing problems in our world can be debated and solutions become, perhaps, imaginable.
Peter Sellars has gained international renown for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and for collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists. Past projects include The Merchant of Venice and Othello with John Ortiz and Philip Seymour Hoffman; Desdemona, a collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traoré, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Chamber Play at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. Upcoming projects in 2017 include productions of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at the Salzburg Festival and the premiere of John Adams’ new opera Girls of the Golden West at the San Francisco Opera. Peter Sellars is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Director of the new Boethius Initiative at UCLA.
Ayanna Thompson is Professor of English at George Washington University, and she specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in/as performance. She is the author of Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centred Approach (2016), Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (2011), and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (2008). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 Othello, and is the editor of Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (2010) and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (2006). Professor Thompson has served as a Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America and a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars.