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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

Women take center stage

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Anna Enflo, left, is Emilia, and Brie-anne Murphy is Desdemona
in the UT production of a play by Paula Vogel.
Anna Enflo, left, is Emilia, and Brie-anne Murphy is Desdemona in the UT production of a play by Paula Vogel.
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

A Shakespearean figure of tragedy and a country-music legend guide the plots of a local and a regional production.

Opening Tuesday at the University of Toledo, Paula Vogel's Desdemona, a Play About a Handkerchief puts a different spin on a wife's behavior.

In Shakespeare's Othello, Desdemona is the much-loved wife of the title character, a Moorish general in service to the Doge of Venice. Through the course of the play, Othello, the victim of a plot by the malevolent Iago, succumbs to blind - and unjustified - jealousy and ultimately murders his bride.

In her dark comedy, Vogel has set about to deconstruct Desdemona and show a different side of her.

"In the first act of Othello, we see Desdemona described as a strong character. She's somewhat of an aggressor [in pushing for her marriage], she defies her father, she stands up to the Doge," says Stephen Berwind, who is directing the show for the department of theater and film.

Then Desdemona changes and becomes a much more passive character, which gave playwright Vogel the idea of trying to figure out what was behind that change. Along the way, she examines marriage, the roles available to women in society, and women's relationships with each other, Berwind says.

In her play, Vogel has Desdemona strutting like a sorority queen, trading places with prostitutes for a lark, and reveling in her conquests as she trades bawdy tales with Emilia, her servant and the wife of Iago, and Bianca, now portrayed as a whore.

Obviously, the play is not for youngsters.

"Desdemona deals with sex in a somewhat frank way that we - especially men - don't often see with woman. During the course of our rehearsals, I've heard some humbling stories from the cast about men," Berwind says.

That cast comprises Brie-anne Murphy of Avon Lake, Ohio, as Desdemona, Anna Enflo of Toledo as Emilia, and Ashley Shyne of Trotwood, Ohio, as Bianca.

A post-performance discussion, Conversation on Desdemona - Shakespeare vs. Vogel, is scheduled after Thursday's performance. Participating will be Jamie Barlowe, professor of women's and gender studies; Matt Wikander, professor of English, and Sarah Abts of the department of English. Thursday's performance also will be signed for the hearing impaired.

'Desdemona, a Play About a Handkerchief' opens Tuesday in the Studio Theatre of the Center for Performing Arts at the University of Toledo. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Feb. 5 and 2 p.m. Feb. 6. Tickets are $6 for UT students and $8 for all others. Information: 419-530-2375.

The life of another woman will be explored tonight in Bryan, Ohio, when the Williams County Community Theater opens Always Patsy Cline, a musical about the legendary country-music singer.

More than 25 songs are featured in the two-hour show, ranging from Cline's best-known tunes, such as "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces," to foot-stompers ("Stupid Cupid") and gospel tunes ("How Great Thou Art.").

Written by Ted Swindley and directed by David Swanson, the show is about a housewife, Louise Seger, who befriended Cline when she was a relative unknown playing the Houston honky tonks. Their friendship grew over the years as Cline's career took off, then ended abruptly and too soon in an airplane crash.

Joy Dockery, a WCCT veteran, plays Louise, who tells the story through monologues.

Cline is played by Terina Wakefield of Montpelier, Ohio, who is known locally for her singing at weddings, fairs, and other public events. According to Swanson, Wakefield traveled through Europe with a singing group, then recorded a single in Nashville that went to the top of the independent charts. Wakefield was recently seen in the WCCT's Nunsense Jamboree.

Adding an authentic touch to the show is the country band led by Jim Dockery of Continental, who plays honky-tonk piano and bluegrass fiddle. Other members of his group are bass player Dave Mercer; drummer Shane Tanner, and guitarist Wade Anderson, both of Wauseon, and backup singers Eddie Dockery, A.J. Schweitzer, and Lisa Sanders.

In their other lives, Jim Dockery is involved with the music ministry at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker; Mercer is mayor of Elmira, Ohio; Tanner plays with a classic rock band called the Retros; Anderson just started the alternative metal band Forevermind; Eddie Dockery is minister and song leader at the CCNO prison ministry, and Schweitzer was a member of the Timmerman Sisters and sang with the Sweet Adelines. Sanders is making her debut in the world of entertainment.

The Williams County Community Theater's production of "Always Patsy Cline" is scheduled in the Little Theater off the Square, 208 West Butler St., Bryan, Ohio. Performances are 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, and Feb. 3, 4, 5, 11, and 12. Matinees are 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 13. Tickets are $15. Information: 419-485-3861.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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