james earl jones

Celebrate Black History Month- Black Actors in Shakespearean Roles

We are currently in the middle of celebrating Black History Month, and all of the important contributions that black men and women have made to the world. We wanted to share with you a list of some of our favourite actors who have tackled Shakespeare over the years. Here are just a few of the actors that we admire (we know this list could be much longer, so please share your favourites with us!)

 

Ira Aldridge

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Ira Aldridge was an American-born Shakespearean actor who had a lengthy acting career, playing some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, including Macbeth and Richard III. Most notably, in the 1820’s, he was the first black Shakespearean actor to play Othello, a black character. Met with much resistance, Aldridge continued to perform in the role, touring to many places across Europe, receiving acclaim for his acting. If you would like to learn more about Ira Aldridge’s life and career, you can check out his page on Biography.com or Wikipedia!

 

Condola Rashad

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Condola Rashad is an American-born Broadway actress who has recently risen to fame on the stage. In 2013, she appeared in the Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet, the first Broadway production of the play since 1977. Condola starred as one of the titular characters, opposite Orlando Bloom as Romeo. The show was a modernization of the play, featuring an all white Montague family and an all black Capulet family. We look forward to seeing what projects she takes on next! To read more about Condola, you can visit her Wikipedia page!

 

James Earl Jones

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James Earl Jones is an American Actor who is famous for portraying the voices of some of the most iconic film characters in recent memory, which I am sure I will not need to tell you! He is also a veteran of the stage, acting in Shakespearean productions since the 1950’s. Some of his most notable roles include Othello in Othello, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. To read more about James and his lengthy career, you can visit his page on Biography.com!

 

Noma Dumezweni

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Noma Dumezweni was born in Swaziland, and is an Olivier Award winning British actress. Her name has made headlines recently after the announcement was made that she would be portraying Hermione Granger in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays (which we are super excited for, by the way!) Noma has also made many appearances on stage with The Royal Shakespeare Company since the late 90’s, including playing Ursula in Much Ado About Nothing, Paulina in The Winter’s Tale, and Calphurnia in Julius Caesar. To read more about Noma’s career, check our her Wikipedia page!

 

The Cast of Voodoo Macbeth

1,000 Views from 100 Years

Voodoo Macbeth was a 1936 production of Macbeth that took place on a fictional Caribbean island instead of Scotland. Directed by a young Orson Welles, this production featured a cast of all black actors, which was unheard of at the time. The show ended up being a huge box office success, and has had several revivals over the years. To read more about the show, visit the Voodoo Macbeth Wikipedia page!

 

Paul Robeson

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Paul Robeson was an American born actor, and was the first black actor of the 20th century to portray Othello on Broadway, and the first in Britain since Ira Aldridge played the role in the previous century. The Broadway production of Othello is still to this day one of the longest running Shakespearean productions to ever be on Broadway, running for nearly 300 performances!

 

Marcel Stewart

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Marcel Stewart is one of Shakespeare in Action’s very own! He has appeared in our most recent productions of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, and is one of the brilliant minds behind our popular Shakespeare Meets Hip Hop tour! Check out a video of him performing below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shakespeare at the Movies- Star Wars Episodes IV to VI

The Star Wars series is back to delight and inspire a new generation of fans with The Force Awakens, opening on Friday! Star Wars is embedded in our popular culture, and has even been turned into a book series of Shakespearean retellings! There are many parallels between the stores in Star Wars and Shakespeare’s plays, so it is no wonder that so many seasoned Shakespearean actors have been involved with the series over the years!

The first instalment of the Shakespeare at the Movies- Star Wars series will focus on the original trilogy, from Episode IV- A New Hope, through Episode VI- Return of the Jedi. Check back tomorrow for the prequels!

 

 

 

Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia)

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Appeared in:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Rave (2002) as Mia’s Mom

 

 

Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin)

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Appeared in:

  • Macbeth (USA Summer Stock, 1941) as Banquo
  • Hamlet (1948) as Osric
  • Richard III (Old Vic Tour, 1948) as Duke of Clarence and Cardinal Bouchier
  • Antony and Cleopatra (Laurence Olivier’s Festival Season London West End, 1951) as Alexas/Diomedes

 

 

Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Kenobi)

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Appeared in:

  • Hamlet (New Theatre, 1934) as Osric
  • As You Like It (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936) as Le Beau/ William
  • Romeo and Juliet (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936) as Sampson/ Apothecary
  • Macbeth (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936) as Macbeth
  • Hamlet (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936) as Reynaldo, Player Queen and Osric
  • As You Like It (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936)
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936) as Boyet
  • Twelfth Night (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1936)
  • Richard III (John Gielgud Company, 1937) as Aumerle/ The Groom
  • Hamlet (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1937) as Reynaldo/ Osric
  • Henry V (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1937) as Exeter
  • Hamlet (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1938) as Hamlet
  • Romeo and Juliet (Scottish Theatre Festival, 1939) as Romeo
  • The Tempest (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1940) as Ferdinand
  • King Lear (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1946) as Fool
  • Richard III (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1947) as Richard III
  • Coriolanus (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1948) as Menenius Agrippa
  • Twelfth Night (Old Vic Theatre Company, 1948) as Director
  • Hamlet (New Theatre, 1951) as Hamlet
  • Hamlet (New Theatre, 1951) as Director
  • Richard III (Stratford Festival, 1953)
  • All’s Well That Ends Well (Stratford Festival, 1953) as King
  • The Merchant of Venice (Chichester Festival, 1984)

 

 

David Prowse (Darth Vader)

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Appeared in:

  • As You Like It (TV movie, 1978) as Charles

 

 

James Earl Jones (Darth Vader’s voice)

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Appeared in:

  • Othello (Ramsdell Theatre, 1955) as Othello
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Stage Production, 1961) as Oberon
  • The Merchant of Venice (Delacorte Theatre, 1963) as Prince of Morocco
  • The Winter’s Tale (Delacorte Theatre, 1963) as Camillo
  • Othello (Martinique Theatre, 1963) as Othello
  • Coriolanus (Delacorte Theatre, 1965) as Junius Brutus
  • Troilus and Cressida (Delacorte Theatre, 1965) as Ajax
  • Hamlet (Delacorte Theatre, 1972) as Claudius
  • King Lear (Delacorte Theatre, 1973) as King Lear
  • Othello (Winter Garden Theatre, 1982) as Othello
  • Much Ado About Nothing (London’s West End, 2013) as Benedick

 

 

Garrick Hagon (Biggs)

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Appeared in:

  • Macbeth (Derby Playhouse, 1977)
  • Hamlet (Royal National Theatre, 1990)
  • Richard III (Royal National Theatre, 1990)

 

 

Jack Klaff (John D.)

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Appeared in:

  • Julius Caesar (Riverside Studios Theatre, 1980)

 

 

Clive Revill (The Emperor)

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Appeared in:

  • The Comedy of Errors (Old Vic School Theatre, 1951)
  • Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1956) as Barnardine
  • The Merchant of Venice (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1956) as Prince of Arragon
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1956) as Costard
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1956) as Player 1
  • King John (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Lymoges
  • The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Trinculo
  • Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Artemidorus
  • Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Cloten
  • Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Octavius Caesar

 

 

Julian Glover (General Veers)

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Appeared in:

  • Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Varro
  • Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1957) as Gaoler
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958) as Sacristan
  • Pericles (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958) as Fisherman 1
  • Romeo and Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958) as Gregory
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958) as Conrade
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1958) as Bernardo
  • Othello (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1959) as Montano
  • King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1959) as Duke of Albany
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1959) as Snug
  • Antony and Cleopatra (1972) as Proculeius
  • Coriolanus (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1977) as Tullus Aufidius
  • Henry VI, Part 1 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1977) as Earl of Warwick
  • Henry VI, Part 2 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1977) as Earl of Warwick
  • Henry IV Part 1 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1991) as Henry IV
  • Henry IV Part 2 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1991) as Henry IV
  • Romeo and Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1991) as Escalus
  • Friar Lawrence (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1995) as Friar Lawrence
  • Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1995) as Caius Cassius
  • Macbeth (Albery Theatre, 2002) as Duncan/ Porter

 

 

 

Sebastian Shaw (Anakin Skywalker)

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Appeared in:

  • The Merchant of Venice (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Bassanio
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Fenton
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Demetrius
  • Romeo and Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Romeo
  • Henry IV Part 2 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Prince Henry
  • Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Lucillius/ Metellus Cimber
  • The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Ferdinand
  • Richard II (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1926) as Sir Henry Green
  • Julius Caesar (TV movie, 1938) as Marcus Brutus
  • Macbeth (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1967) as Duncan
  • Romeo and Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1967) as Friar Laurence
  • All’s Well That Ends Well (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1967) as King of France
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968) as Quince
  • All’s Well That Ends Well (TV movie, 1968) as King of France
  • King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968) as Earl of Gloucester
  • Troilus and Cressida (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968) as Ulysses
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1968) as Leonato
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1969) as Quince
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1970) as Polonius
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1970) as Sir Eglamour
  • Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1970) as Vincentino
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1973) as Boyet
  • Richard II (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1973) as Duke of York
  • Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974) as Cymbeline
  • Henry V (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984) as Bishop Ely/ Charles VI
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984) as Clown
  • The Merchant of Venice (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984) as Tubal

 

 

Michael Pennington (Moff Jorjerrod)

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Appeared in:

  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1965) as Fortinbras
  • Timon of Athens (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1965) as Titus
  • Hamlet (1969) as Laertes
  • The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974) as Ferdinand
  • Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974) as Angelo
  • King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976) as Edgar
  • Romeo and Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976) as Mercutio
  • Troilus and Cressida (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976) as Hector
  • The Winter’s Tale (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976) as Time
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978) as Berowne
  • Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978) as Duke of Vienna
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978) as Dumaine
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1980) as Hamlet
  • Cymbeline (TV movie, 1982) as Posthumus
  • The Wars of the Roses- Richard II (TV series, 1990) as Richard II
  • The Wars of the Roses- Henry IV Part 1 (TV series, 1990) as Prince Henry of Wales
  • The Wars of the Roses- Richard III (TV series, 1990) as Duke of Buckingham
  • The Wars of the Roses- Henry VI (TV series, 1990) as Jack Cade/ Earl of Suffolk
  • Timon of Athens (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1999) as Timon of Athens
  • Venus and Adonis (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2004) as Narrator
  • Richard II (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2013) as John of Gaunt

 

 

Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor)

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Appeared in:

  • Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974) as Elbow
  • The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974) as Trinculo
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976) as Don John
  • Macbeth (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976) as Porter/ Ross
  • The Merchant of Venice (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984) as Shylock

 

 

Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett)

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Appeared in:

  • Measure for Measure (TV movie, 1979) as Duke Vincentino
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1979) as Benedick

 

 

What parallels do you notice in Star Wars movies and Shakespeare’s plays? Share some examples with us!