Being Desdemona

June 8, 2009
By Ariella Chavarria BRONZE, Oak Park, Illinois
Ariella Chavarria BRONZE, Oak Park, Illinois
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“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

From the beginning, the goals of this project were not to strengthen our acting skills or for others to showcase their talent. It was to gain a deeper and more clear knowledge of Othello by being able to visualize many of the scenes. For myself, I wanted to be able to understand the scene, everything that was going on, and try to get into Desdemona’s head. I wanted to try to become the character so that I could portray her emotions of being scared and what was happening in Desdemona’s death scene. This scene was very important between Desdemona and Othello. It showed what kind of people they could be. Particularly for Desdemona it showed how truly kind and understanding she is of Othello at the end.

I met most of my goals except for getting into Desdemona’s head. Although while just setting up what Desdemona would be doing, it was easy to think like her, or at least to act like she would. When I started to actually read the text in depth I began to shift my focus to memorizing lines and the exact placement of Desdemona throughout the scene. Most importantly, I really feared the death scene and I did not know how I was going to be smothered or how I was going to die. As those obstacles came up, they became my main focus. Although memorization is something very important in plays, it will not be exciting to the audience if there is no emotion or drive behind the lines. In the future I would like to understand my character and the things that she does which at times may seem confusing.

I thought that my performance went well. After numerous rehearsals it became easier to get into the scene and not to just say my lines when it was my turn. I became more comfortable with the scene and was able to play around with my lines. Once we got into it I was able to listen to what the other character was actually saying and to be able to respond with how Desdemona might respond. During the performance many things changed. We had an audience, an actual stage, and we were truly doing it. Many of those factors listed above would change how I acted—particularly the level of my voice. Once the performance began, I was so focused on my lines and saying the correct words in their correct order and interacting with Othello that it was all that I could think about. Towards the end, though, I really began to interact with Othello and to play off each other’s lines, and I think that it was successful.
I enjoyed this experience and being able to become someone other than myself. To be able to become someone else is very difficult, and the fact that I was able to try and be Desdemona for just a few minutes was interesting. I saw that Desdemona truly loves Othello because she did not even blame him for her death. The scene was continually transforming for me as this process continued. At first I planned to have Desdemona be weak and naïve throughout the entire scene, but after a while it did not seem like that is what she would do. I view this play a bit differently now because I was able to see what was happening and how the characters were talking. Personally, I was able to step outside myself and to be someone different. She was someone who was kind, loving, fearful, angry during the scene, and I think that I was able to show that.

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