BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey

Debra Ann Byrd – Harlem Shakespeare Festival (USA)

filmed stage performance

Created by Debra Ann Byrd

Directed by Tina Packer

Described as a living memoir, BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey is a multimedia theatrical production with lyrical language, soulful songs and the music that shaped the life of a resilient little girl growing up in Spanish Harlem. This choreopoem chronicles the life of classical actress, Debra Ann Byrd.
The solo show flows from Debra Ann’s recounting of her ancestral lineage to her arrival at a crossroad in life, while taking us through her joy-filled and tumultuous youth; a fateful encounter with a company of Shakespearean actors and her remarkable, gender-flipped journey on the road to becoming Othello. We share in Debra Ann’s struggle with self-esteem and how, against all odds, she manages to make it through foster care, teenage pregnancy and single parenting, to become the person she always dreamed she could be. It is a deeply personal, poignant and powerful story of perseverance, tragedy, triumph and ultimately, unconditional love.


Debra Ann Byrd is the Founding Artistic Director of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival and an award winning classically trained actress, scholar, producer and playwright who was recently named Writer-in-Residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Artist-in-Residence Fellow at the Folger Institute and an A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholar at Columbia University.  In addition, she is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Sidney Berger Award presented to her by the Shakespeare Theatre Association for her work as a charismatic leader of Shakespearean theater throughout the world. Other theatrical and business leadership honors include the NAACP Shirley Farmer Woman of Excellence Award, the LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, and the Josephine Abady Award for Excellence in “Producing works that foster diversity.”  Debra Ann received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College and completed advanced studies at Shakespeare & Company, The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab and The Broadway League’s Commercial Theatre Institute.

“Once in a great while a piece of theater resonates so profoundly it changes lives forever. This is one of those works.” 

“Becoming Othello was astonishing, brilliant, funny, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring.” 

“An incredible life story mixed with a love of Shakespeare.  Absolutely stunning.”

running time 126 minutes

The screening will be accompanied by a dialogue between Debra Ann Byrd and David Monteith, which can be booked as a separate event.

How to Book

Please book via our Ticketsource link at Riding Lights Theatre using this link. You will then receive an invitation to the zoom link for the event. If you can’t join us live, a recording of the event will be available on Vimeo for the following 24 hours. and your booking email will include this password.

photo credit Lia Chang