Fil-Am outfits ‘Othello’ for a sexy, edgy ‘Bridgerton’ touch
CEDAR CITY, Utah — For this year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, Filipino American costume designer Raven Ong is designing a “Bridgerton”-inspired wardrobe for a production of William Shakespeare’s “Othello.”
Ong is collaborating with director Cordell Cole to reimagine the play’s setting in a world akin to the sexy Netflix hit historical romance series set in 1810s Regency-era England based on Julia Quinn’s novels.
The original milieu of the Bard’s work has Othello serving as a general in the Venetian army in the 1570s. Newly married to Desdemona, the couple soon become victims to the machinations of his ensign Iago.
“It is an imagined world. Cordell and I looked at images that were Regency-inspired. We wanted silhouettes that were athletic, angular yet edgy, and form-fitting with hints of asymmetry,” says Ong.
“We put in a lot of consideration for the costume designs, especially because this show will be seen by students who may be watching a Shakespeare play for the first time.”
The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s legacy stretches over 50 years. “Othello” is this year’s installment for the festival’s Shakespeare in the Schools tour, which brings shortened adaptation of a Shakespeare play to schools and communities through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona.
This is Ong’s second time designing for the festival. “I designed last year’s touring show, ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ directed by Betsy Mugavero under the recommendation of Vince Cardinal, the former Artistic Director at University of Connecticut.
“The festival was kind enough to send me an invitation to come back and design again this year.”
Ong’s recent credits include De-Cruit Theatre’s Shakespeare triptych: “The Head of Richard,” “Make Thick My Blood,” and “She-Wolf.” He also designed Owl and Pussycat Theatre Company’s “The Ecstasy of Victoria Woodhull.”
Ong stressed the importance of costume design as part of the storytelling and helping audiences distinguish characters from one another.
“The story of ‘Othello’ is about jealousy of rank, betrayal of friendships and position. We looked at the hierarchy of each these characters and selected distinct details that would help establish each one of them.
“We asked questions like: What does wearing a military jacket mean? A uniform symbolizes rank. What does wanting to obtain a military jacket mean? We wanted the pieces to be symbolic.”
“Othello will be the only character who will have the most embellishments in his military coat. Iago, the play’s antagonist, only gets to wear a vest with less embellishments.”
After meaning and intent were established, Ong was able to work on aesthetics. “Since the color of the set design is cream and beige with a marbled texture, we went for a black base for costumes. Having only seven actors playing many different characters, we wanted to show a tight color palette as a lot of the costume changes happen on stage. We added burgundy and metallic gold as accent colors.”
Ong’s upcoming projects include Kate Hamill’s “Sense and Sensibility” for Central Connecticut State University (where he teaches) and the world premiere of “Webster’s Bitch” by Jacqueline Bircher at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, Connecticut.
“Othello” begins Jan. 27. Visit Bard.org/othellotour.