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 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 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
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 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
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 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 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!