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Kalamazoo College Presents Juliet and Desdemona…Together?!

Seven students rehearsing for "Goodnight Desdemona {Good Morning Juliet}"

The players in a scene from “Goodnight Desdemona {Good Morning Juliet}” are (l-r): Katelyn Anderson ’15 (Desdemona/Ramona), Aidan Johnson ’17 (Iago/Chorus), Grace Gilmore ’15 (Constance Ledbelly), Lauren Landman ’18 (Juliet/Student), Cameron Schneberger ’16 (Othello/Claudio/Tybalt/Nurse), Sam Meyers ’18 (Romeo/Ghost), and Jasmine Khin ’18 (Mercutio/Servant/Soldier). Photo by Robert Manor ’17.

Juliet and Desdemona, somewhat askew their famous contexts, come together when Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College presents Goodnight Desdemona {Good Morning Juliet} by Ann-Marie MacDonald in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse. The play opens Thursday, February 26, at 7:30 p.m. Additional evening performances occur Friday and Saturday, February 27-28, at 8 p.m., and a matinee (2 p.m.) concludes the run on Sunday, March 1. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for other adults. For reservations call 269.337.7333. For more information visit the website.

The characters from the tragedies Othello and Romeo and Juliet appear with unexpected outcomes, thanks to the scholarship of MacDonald’s character Constance. Goodnight Desdemona {Good Morning Juliet} explores the borderlands between imagination, scholarship, and literature. Constance, a stumbling academic, embarks on a quest to find the holy grail of comparative literature: the true source of Shakespeare’s often-contested texts. She falls down the Elizabethan rabbit hole and finds herself immersed in the tomfoolery, betrayal, swordplay and wit of Shakespeare’s iconic worlds. As Constance journeys closer to proving her thesis true, she discovers that the answer is within herself, and returns to the real world with confidence. We are presented with the age-old dichotomy of the unfit hero—the underdog—who must come to terms with her own life before she can save another’s. Constance challenges us to find solace—and truth—in imagination.

The play is playful. MacDonald riffs on Shakespeare’s verse and meter, and exacerbates his characterizations to an extent that is gut-wrenchingly funny. Desdemona is a ruthless and bloodthirsty warrior, Iago is conniving for the sake of being conniving, and Romeo and Juliet fall in love with anything that moves. Constance must come face to face (and sometimes hand to hand, lip to lip) with these characters in order to navigate through their worlds. She seeks to find the “missing fool”—a character absent from Shakespeare’s tragedies who should have interrupted the narratives and made them comedic. But what Constance discovers is that she, in her stumbling but brilliant ignorance, is the missing link. Even though Constance’s path—riddled with deception, drag, and cans of Coors Light—bites its thumb at the traditional hero’s journey, she does find her way home again, the wiser for the way.