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Community Responses to Othello: Buck Downs

Community Responses to Othello

STC’s vision is to create theatre that ignites a dialogue and that connects classic works to our modern world—this vision is especially true for Ron Daniels’ production of OthelloIn the context of world events, this tragedy is one of the classics that seems most timely, relevant and urgent.

For that reason, we have invited some members of our community to craft responses to Othello and to all of the questions this production poses in whatever form calls to them—whether that means poems, songs, pictures, essays, stories or anything in between. We hope these responses, which will be published online throughout the run of the show, will help further the dialogue between STC and the community and help provide our audiences with another lens to view this current production.

Now, without further introduction, please enjoy the response to Othello from poet Buck Downs:

Addicted to Violence

Violence and intoxication were on my mind—like everyone else, I was a little high.

The lights cut through a glycerine haze and the air smelled of cosmetics; maybe there’s a cover-up about to happen.

Drugs and patriotism were on my mind—things that sell themselves. When we are attached to something, and at the same time understand that something to be toxic, poisonous, then we can understand that we are addicted.

I took a bunch of notes, here’s one: “war of a most neoliberal sort, more noise and smoke, and between salvos, a return to market form.” Like I say, my judgment was impaired.

The state I brought with me to the theater and the one I found myself in there: attracted and attached to the whiff of smoke that envelopes the play, maybe deadly, maybe necessary—they call it witchcraft.

I think I spent intermission on the phone, very moderne of me , and there it is again— ginning up a reason for my addiction, I have a reason to be impaired, distracted.

I am like Jonno’s Iago in that way, who found out his crocodile tears could work on others, then less happily that they work on him, too. Sort of a Glenn Beck 500 years avant la lettre with his ability to fabricate a cause and then believe it to be true, more than true, like the truth on steroids.

And maybe he’s not wrong—it takes a kind of alchemy to turn difference into grievance, and grievance into vengeance. It’s alchemy that can magnetize a crowd, create a mob, or destroy a hero.


Buck Downs is a poet and executive writing coach in Washington. His latest book is Tachycardia: Poems 2010-2012, available from Edge Books.

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