Red Velvet

The Story

The year is 1867. In a theater dressing room in Lodz, Poland, Ira Aldridge prepares to perform his King Lear when the intrusion of a young reporter, determined to get her story, forces the sixty-year-old actor to look back upon the defining moment of his career, more than thirty years before. Riots erupt in London’s streets as Parliament prepares to vote in 1833 on abolishing slavery throughout the British colonies. On the stage at Covent Garden’s world-renowned Theatre Royal, Edmund Kean, the greatest classical actor of the age, plays Othello until one night he collapses onstage. Charles Kean, Edmund’s son and “presumptive heir,” anticipates stepping into his father’s role. But the theater’s manager, Pierre Laporte, proposes instead an outside actor who has played Othello to much acclaim throughout the provinces; moments later, Ira Aldridge enters the room to rehearse with his fellow cast members—sight unseen by all but Pierre. Aldridge’s Othello is riveting, but the reactions from his company members and London’s theater critics are as complex as they are divisive. And the choice made by a friend and colleague changes the course of Aldridge’s life.

Learn More

A Conversation with Director Gary Griffin
A Conversation with Playwright Lolita Chakrabarti
An Introduction to the Play by Scholar Ayanna Thompson
The Life of Ira Aldridge

In the Classroom

Classroom Exercises
Red Velvet Film Finder



Additional Pages