On today's show, we're speaking with Peter Sellars, one of America's greatest living theater directors. Right now, he is overseeing a new production of Othello, in New York, produced by the Public Theater and the LAByrinth Theater Co.
A few years ago, I heard a story about Sellars. When he was an undergraduate at Harvard College, Sellars was making waves, literally. At Adams House, one of the residential colleges there, he staged Antony and Cleopatra — in a swimming pool. David Edelstein, now the film critic for NPR's Fresh Air, then a Sellars classmate, had this review:
Peter Sellars has stroked a bold production of Antony and Cleopatra in the ghostly waters of Adams House Pool, with frigid temperatures and floating death cooling the flames of Shakespeare's most passionate tragedy. Not that it isn't lively—Sellars sustains the initial gimmick with scene after scene of slapstick splashing and general mayhem, but balances his off-the-wall antics with a sound sense of the appropriate; invention almost seems subordinate to the text. If it frequently resembles a circus, it is an indisputably Shakespearean circus, the Bard doing breast-stroke, the actors barnstorming with the kind of relish rarely unleashed in Harvard theater. It never approaches a tragedy of thought and feeling—it doesn't leave you numb (unless with the cold)—only surprised and which is saying a lot for swimming-pool Shakespeare.