Company Shines a New Light on Othello

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

Music, theater and more start arty new decade

Wilmington’s New Light Theatre—launched in 2018 by Lena Mucchetti, Tom Mucchetti and Newton Buchanan—will present its first production in Delaware with William Shakespeare’s Othello, Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 at the Delaware Historical Society in downtown Wilmington.

So, why is this their first production staged in Delaware? “We’re a Delaware-based theater company, and we’ve very much wanted to perform here,” says Artistic Director Lena Mucchetti. “But performance space in Delaware has been hard to come by, particularly the size and scale we need to accommodate a musical.”

Buchanan, who also plays the lead role of Othello, agrees. “Finding space that not only fits our production and technical needs, but also is cost effective, is a challenge. We found it particularly difficult to find capable and affordable venues in Wilmington, leading us to have our shows and fundraisers outside of Delaware.”

But Othello, Mucchetti notes, is more flexible in terms of production elements, and the Delaware Historical Society’s (DHS) space affords them the intimacy they were seeking.

“That [the production’s flexibility] stoked our creativity and resourcefulness and we landed in DHS,” Buchanan says. “As a co-founder, I hope we can facilitate a larger movement for the performing arts in Wilmington or at least start the discussion about making it easier for any company to produce here while making it accessible to everyone.”

For the production, New Light is occupying DHS’ second floor Copeland Room, and Mucchetti says they’re excited to explore ways to turn a “found space” into a theatrical space.

“We’ve used DHS in the past to host theater education workshops, and we were struck by the interesting architecture in the room and cultural significance of the museum itself,” Mucchetti says.

She is also thrilled that (finally) performing in Wilmington brings the production closer to its beneficiary, the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV), which is based downtown.

New Light Theatre’s mission is to use each production to raise awareness and support for thematically connected charities that bring light to the darkness of the world. The theater’s inaugural production was Next to Normal, which ran for one weekend in August 2018 at the Limelight Performing Arts Center in West Chester, Pa. The sold-out run enabled the organization to provide funds for The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation as well as focus future work on that model of giving back.

New Light Theatre’s August 2019 production of Dogfight featured actors Jessie Gray and Josh O’Donnell as Rose and Birdlace. Photo Lena Mucchetti Photography

“Our Othello—set in an intimate venue, with a small cast and stripped-down production elements—will more deeply explore themes of domestic abuse and toxic masculinity in the play that are still incredibly relevant in present day, while we raise support and awareness for DCADV and the resources they can provide for victims of domestic violence,” Mucchetti says. 

“We’re so fortunate to partner with DCADV,” says Othello Director Allen Radway, himself a Philly-based director and actor. “Their work lends a gravity that will help guide ours, as we find our footing in a story that serves as a virtual roadmap of toxic masculinity.”

As one of Shakespeare’s most notable works, this tragedy of passion and poison finds one of his greatest romances crossing paths with one of his ultimate villains.

A victorious General Othello discovers that those who have lauded his military triumph might not approve of his marriage to a white senator’s daughter. Believing he can win over his adopted homeland through dutiful service and the love of his wife Desdemona, they depart for Cyprus. Unfortunately, this is the precise opportunity the malicious Iago needs to destroy them all.

“I’m really interested in exploring the area between absolutes in our production,” says Radway. “Shakespeare gives us so many contrasting lenses through which to view the story—light and dark, love and fear, otherness and ‘us’-ness, power and vulnerability, gender, race, moral distinctions, truth…the list goes on.

“It’s so easy to forget, in our polarized political landscape, that we do most of our living in between such absolutes.”

Othello features a cast of 11 actors from the Philadelphia and Delaware areas, including Fred Andersen, Megan Bellwoar, Newton Buchanan, Cameron DelGrosso, Elsa Kegelman, Sol Madariaga, Kevin McCann, Ryan Mikles, Lena Mucchetti, Edward Snyder and Yannick Trapman-O’Brien.

This will be Buchanan’s second time stepping into the role of Othello. “My first time around I was arguably too young to portray the general. Having lived a bit more life since then, I can already sense a difference in my interpretation,” he says.

“The Moor of Venice is a strong, complex character,” Buchanan says. “Not perfect by any means, yet important in the story of human nature, reputation, and bias/prejudice. Taking on this role is intimidating and exciting all at onceI’m honored to help tell this story.”

New Light Theatre also provides opportunities for students and emerging artists to work alongside professionals. As such, they’ve welcomed Ryan Mikles, a junior Theater major at Temple University, who is composing an original soundscape for the production.

Othello will be presented at the Delaware Historical Society, 504 N. Market St. Tickets, ranging from $15-$20, are available at newlighttheatre.com.

Honoring a Music Lover’s Life

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m., The Music School of Delaware hosts a special evening of music, celebrating the life of an equally special member of the Music School “family”— Dr. William J. Stegeman—who passed away in October.

The concert, Serafin Ensemble & Friends: Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary—Honoring the Memory of Bill Stegeman, will feature Serafin current and former members, noted Music School faculty and guest artists. Included in that artist roster are Amos Fayette and Kate Ransom, violins; Luke Fleming, viola; Jacques-Pierre Malan, cello; and Victor Asuncion, piano.

While the repertoire will certainly focus on the work of Beethoven, it will also feature a tribute selection performed by current and former Serafins in memory of Dr. Stegeman.

“Clearly, the Music School was very special to him,” says Music School President & CEO Kate Ransom. “His belief was that every child should have access to an excellent music experience, and he trusted our ability to deliver that. We carry the torch forward in his memory, to see that his legacy lives on.”

The Music School’s Board of Directors is also honoring Stegeman, launching a donation match campaign in his name. The Board has pledged to match up to $15,000 in donations made in memory of Bill Stegeman through June 30.

“Our task as a board is to do our best to maintain and grow the financial strength of The Music School of Delaware so it can better fulfill its mission of providing musical excellence to everyone,” says Music School Board Chair Larry Hamermesh.

They chose to introduce this match first and foremost, Hamermesh says, because the board is thankful for Stegeman’s bountiful charity, which made financial stewardship efforts much smoother. This campaign will, at least in part, help fill the fundraising gap left by his passing.

“We mourn the loss of an extraordinary friend and colleague, and are grateful that his generosity and passion for music continue to inspire us,” says Hamermesh.

Stegeman, founder of Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories, Inc. in West Grove, Pa., passed away on Oct. 13. He was the single largest individual donor in the Music School’s history, also taking violin lessons and serving on its Board of Directors. In 2015, Stegeman made a sizable gift to the school. At the time, he said, “My gift…is important because, for me, the school is all about the kids. Music education has such a profound influence on young people’s brains and their education in general.”

Tickets for the memorial concert are $10 or $5 for students and seniors and are available at brownpapertickets.com.

Other Arts News

Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s first Classics Concert of the New Year opens with the theme “False Starts” on Friday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Copeland Hall at The Grand. As Maestro David Amado describes, the performance features two works that have become standards after quite “difficult” premieres. One, Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony, premieres in Delaware more than a century after its disastrous initial performance. The next, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, was also initially unsuccessful until cellist Jacqueline du Pre “revived” it into a staple of the repertoire in the 1960s. The DSO is joined by French cellist Camille Thomas for the Elgar piece.

Rainbow Chorale of Delaware, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is holding an open call for singers on Monday, Jan. 6 and Monday, Jan. 13 from 6 to 7 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1502 W. 13th St. in Wilmington. The ensemble is seeking basses, tenors, sopranos and altos. While there is no “formal” audition, the ability for singers to read music is helpful but not required. Candidates will meet with the chorale director for a voice placement discussion, and each open call session will be followed by a regular rehearsal attended by the entire chorale. For more information, visit therainbowchorale.org.

Artist Terrance Vann has played a pivotal role in many public art works around Wilmington, including the United Bridge mural and his Divine Mind mural in the Creative District. Photo Joe del Tufo

Wilmington visual artist Terrance Vann is moving on to a new artistic journey. He and fiancée Keyanna Mozie are heading to Ithaca, N.Y., to start work on their newly launched company, VIBEPRO, where they will be facilitating several art programs. Afterward, Vann says, they’ll do some traveling and “…see a bit of this big world. The next leg of the journey is already shaping up to be quite the adventure!”

Vann has been an active talent (and voice) in the local art scene for some time, being named a 2017 Individual Artist Fellowship Recipient by the Delaware Division of the Arts, and serving as the creator of a number of striking murals and public art works in and around the city. I asked, as he leaves, does he have any favorite projects he’s worked on in Wilmington?

“Ah…it’s super-hard to choose,” he says. “The United Bridge mural (located on the 7th Street bridge over I-95) that I most recently collaborated on with Westside Grows Together is definitely up there; and I’d absolutely have to say The Divine Mind Mural (at the intersection of 7th & Windsor Streets in the Creative District) that I did [in 2016].”

Since being involved in the Delaware arts scene, Vann says he sees more diversity and variety as well as increased opportunity to show work, especially for local black artists.

“I can say I was involved in a great movement in my hometown that has produced some truly amazing artists,” he says. “I pray the work that I’ve done has contributed to that, and one day I see us returning to build on that in a much grander scale!”

You can follow Vann’s new adventures on Instagram @terranceism or at their website vibepro.co. 

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