Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Philadelphia Young Playwrights & The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre Collaborate to Bring The Othello Project with Award-winning Othello Star Forrest McClendon, to Local High Schools

Forrest McClendon. Photo by Lia Chang

Forrest McClendon. Photo by Lia Chang

Philadelphia Young Playwrights, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre and The University of the Arts have collaborated to develop The Othello Project, a unique educational program reaching more than 100 high school students from Girls High School,South Philadelphia High School, Constitution High School and Nueva Esperanza. The Othello Project coincides with The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s professional production of Othello, starring Tony Award-nominated and 2012 Barrymore Award-winning actor Forrest McClendon. Alongside teaching artists from Philadelphia Young Playwrights and The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, McClendon will work with these students to craft monologues, scenes or short plays that will be performed onstage for their communities and Othello audiences.

The Othello Project will pair a classroom teacher from each participating high school with teaching artists from both organizations for a series of lessons and workshops exploring the themes of Othello in a residency environment, helping students take a moment from the play that resonates with them and bring it into 2013. McClendon will visit with each classroom to offer his expertise as a teaching artist and his perspective as the actor playing Othello. Students and their school communities will be offered opportunities to see the performances for free during student matinees and on Wednesday nights throughout Othello’s run, which begins March 13, 2013. Click here for Othello ticket information.

“The work teaching artists will do in collaboration with classroom teachers will encourage students to go deeper into Shakespeare to ask, ‘Why now? Why here? What can we learn from this play as citizens in Philadelphia today?’” says Mindy Early, Associate Director for Education and Program Services for Philadelphia Young Playwrights. “But dialogue will not stop there. As the students share their work with the audiences who see Othello and with the community at large, they will step into the role of artist-mentors themselves, encouraging audience members to watch Othello through the same contemporary mode of inquiry as they did.”

Adds Chris Melohn, Director of Education and Community Partnerships for The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre: “We are thrilled to be a part of such an innovative and collaborative project that fuels creativity, sparks the imagination and enhances the classroom experience. The Othello Project aligns perfectly with the theatre’s mission of making excellent Shakespeare productions and education programming accessible to all, plus providing the highest quality theatre education in Philadelphia schools.”

The Othello Project was made possible by funding provided by the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and The Suzanne Roberts Cultural Development Fund, as well as individual honorary producer Nancy R. Posel. For more information about the educational opportunities offered by each organization and to learn more about Othello, visit Philadelphia Young Playwrights at and The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre at

“Othello” will be playing from March 8th through May 18th at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre located at 2111 Sansom Street. Previews run from March 8th to March 10th; official opening date is March 13. Tickets can be purchased for $30 at or by calling (215) 496-9722.

About The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Since 1996, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre has produced over 30 Shakespeare productions through fresh, muscular, and vivid interpretations that have at their center the actor and the playwright. The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre is one of the foremost proponents of text-based theatre. Along with annual productions of works written by William Shakespeare, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s decade long Open Door Project offers state-of-the-art Shakespeare programming to high school and middle school students including student matinees, Artist-in-Residence, and professional touring productions. Over the years, the Theatre has served over 40,000 students in the Delaware Valley. The Theatre also offers a Shakespeare Connoisseur Series, which includes interactive performance lectures, readings, forums and symposia. The Classical Acting Academy offers professional training for early career actors, classes for adults and teens, a summer Shakespeare camp, and free performances to the public each summer.

About The University of the Arts
The Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts has been providing conservatory training to aspiring theater professionals for over 25 years. Its alumni can be found on Broadway, leading regional theaters, film and television.

The University of the Arts is the nation’s first and only university dedicated to the visual, performing and communication arts. Its more than 2,300 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs on its campus in the heart of Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. The institution’s roots as a leader in educating creative individuals date back to 1868.

About Forrest McClendon
Forrest McClendon is happy to be a part of this collaboration with The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and University of the Arts. He has been affiliated with all three institutions as an actor and educator since arriving in Philadelphia in the mid-90s, and currently teaches at Temple University. Forrest received a 2011 Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut as Mr. Tambo in The Scottsboro Boys, a role he first created at the Vineyard and Guthrie theaters, and reprised at the Philadelphia Theatre Company (2012 Barrymore Award). Most recently, he appeared as Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, and his other regional credits include: Charlotte Repertory Theatre/Charlotte Symphony Orchestra: Ariel in The Tempest; People’s Light & Theatre Company: Marullus/Soothsayer/Cinna/et al in Julius Caesar; Theater of the Seventh Sister: Edmund in King Lear, Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Morocco in The Merchant of Venice. Recent readings/workshops of new work include: Brooklyn Academy of Music: Ethereal in James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire; The Playwrights’ Center (Minneapolis): Chappy in Nobody, No Time by Carlyle Brown; The Actor’s Studio: Michael in Revolution by John Jiler; The Wilma Theater: Various roles in Bootcandy by Robert O’Hara; PlayPenn: Bimbo in The Electric Baby by Stefanie Zadravec.

Philadelphia Young Playwrights
Founded in 1987 by Adele Magner, and led today by Executive Producing Director Glen Knapp, Philadelphia Young Playwrights is an award-winning program that taps the potential of youth and inspires learning through playwriting in more than 50 public and private K-12 schools each year. A leader in the region’s educational programs for youth and built upon its primary belief that all students have something important and valuable to say, Young Playwrights has enriched the Greater Philadelphia community, touching the lives of thousands of students, teachers and parents for the past twenty years. Since 1987, approximately 60 professional playwrights have led workshops, and nearly all of Philadelphia’s professional theater companies have participated by performing, producing, or directing student works. Nearly 60,000 students have seen peers’ work produced in class or by professionals. Young Playwrights’ Literary Committee includes more than 60 educators, writers, parents, and former Young Playwrights students who read and critique each student script. Young Playwrights has been recognized as a Champion in Action by Citizens Bank and is the past recipient of a 2005 Barrymore Award for Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service, a 1997 Barrymore Award for Theatre Education, a 2003 George Bartol Award for Excellence in Arts Education, a national “Points of Light” designation, and a 2004 Eastern University Award for Nonprofit Excellence.

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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. She is a Signature Theatre alumni who was in the cast of Sam Shepard’s Chicago, during his Signature 1996-1997 Playwright-in-Residence Season.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2012 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

One comment on “Philadelphia Young Playwrights & The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre Collaborate to Bring The Othello Project with Award-winning Othello Star Forrest McClendon, to Local High Schools

  1. Lonnie Carter
    March 13, 2013

    Lia the Indefatigable and the splendiferous and splendapperous Forrest McClendon

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