Globe’s Summer Shakespeare Festival 2014 opens with ‘Othello’

Despite the prejudices in Venice, the brilliant general Othello excels both on the battlefield and in the halls of state. But when he marries Desdemona, his envious lieutenant Iago sets in motion a diabolical plan to destroy him.

By Diana Saenger

Actor Richard Thomas, Iago in “Othello,” the first show of The Old Globe Theatre’s 2014 Summer Shakespeare Festival, calls “Othello” “one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies in the theater.” In addition to his role, Thomas said he’s eager to work with Barry Edelstein again, The Old Globe Artistic Director making his outdoor directorial debut in The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. Thomas played the role of Timon in “Timon of Athens,” directed by Edelstein at New York’s The Public Theatre in 2011.

“I’m very excited to be here at the Old Globe and with Barry,” Thomas said. “Barry is a dynamic director with his own vision that’s strong, artistic, wieldy and productive.”

Thomas has an impressive resume in television and stage touring.

Born in New York City in 1951, he started acting at age 7. His parents, Richard and Barbara Thomas, were dancers with the New York City Ballet and owners of the New York School of Ballet. His first role was his Broadway debut in “Sunrise at Campobello” (1958) as John Roosevelt, son of future U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Thomas (“An Enemy of the People,” Broadway’s “Race,” “Richard II,” “Richard III,” “Hamlet”) went on to make more than 105 film and TV appearances as well as many roles on the theatrical stage.

He appeared in more than 20 film and TV roles before earning an Emmy Award for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series as John Boy in “The Walton’s” TV series (1972-1981). One character he’s longed to play is Iago.

“Iago is a challenging character but a big reward for me to play,” Thomas said. “Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language. His writing is smart and complex but elemental with all kinds of passion. He puts his teeth down where he can get at the core of the story.”

Thomas currently has the role of Agent Frank Gaad on FX’s “The Americans.”

“I feel very lucky to have so many performing opportunities, but theater is my greatest pleasure,” he said. “Playing some of the classic roles like Iago is a great privilege.”

Joining Thomas in the lead roles are Blair Underwood as Othello and Kristen Connolly as Desdemona. Underwood is an award-winning actor/writer/director/producer. He received two Golden Globe Award nominations and 10 NAACP Image Award nominations with six wins.

His theater credits include his one-man show “IM4: From the Mountaintop to Hip Hop,” New York Shakespeare Festival’s “Measure for Measure,” and the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which garnered Underwood a 2012 Drama League Distinguished Performance nomination. He’s also appeared in many film and TV roles.

Connolly worked with Edelstein on “King Lear,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and “Measure for Measure,” at The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival. She had a role in the History Channel miniseries “Houdini” and the Netflix’s series “House of Cards.” u

If you go:

“Othello,” 8 p.m. June 22-July 27 at The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets from $29 at (619) 234-5623. The 2014 Shakespeare Festival will also include the comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” (Aug. 10-Sept. 14) directed by Globe alumnus and Tony Award nominee Mark Lamos.