Skip to main content
The Folger Spotlight
Louis Butelli

Louis Butelli

Hi! My name is Louis, and it’s my honor to be your very own blogger. I’m going to be writing to you periodically with dispatches from the frontlines of Folger Theatre’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s Othello, directed by Robert Richmond.

For this inaugural post, I thought I’d just take a moment to introduce myself, and to tell you what I’m hoping to do here, and what I’m hoping not to do here.

By way of introduction, I was born and raised on Long Island, New York—a place full of boats, oysters, vineyards, and shopping malls. I now live in Los Angeles—a place full of mountains, carnitas, beaches, and breast implants. Both places have an extraordinary amount of traffic and people who believe they should be on television.

For fifteen years, I’ve worked as an actor in, director for, and teacher of that great archaic art form, the Theater. Most of that time has been spent in service of the Bard and, more specifically, in service of his comic roles: the fools and clowns.

It is, perhaps, no great surprise that I find myself playing Roderigo in Folger’s Othello. While he’s not exactly a clown or a fool, Roderigo is certainly something of a fish-out-of-water, someone who is in over his head, a fellow whose needs don’t quite match the reality of the world he lives in. Also, he indulges in a weird, codependent relationship with Iago, a person of far greater intellectual prowess than himself. This makes Roderigo “clowny” at his best, “foolish” at his worst. But I get ahead of myself.

(L-R) Ian Merrill Peakes as Henry VIII and Louis Butelli as Will Sommers in Folger Theatre's 2010 production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII. Photo by Carol Pratt.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should just say here that Robert Richmond, our director, is an old friend of mine—we have been collaborating in the theater for about 13 years. More to come on that subject. I have also worked previously with the amazing Ian Merrill Peakes, who plays Iago. Othello represents the third time I have been engaged as Ian’s sidekick—which pleases Ian to an extent that I find somewhat unhealthy. Again, more about that later.

Meanwhile, here are some hopes for this blog.

I would hope to provide you, the reader, if you’re there, with some sort of window into the collaborative experience of putting up a truly world-class play at a magnificent theater. If I am lucky, I’ll put across to you the joys and delights that are attendant on that process. It is entirely possible that I may also—however inadvertently—put across some of the terror, complexity, and deep sense of personal inadequacy that are also attendant on that process. Would-be actors, take note.

What I hope not to do with this blog is bore you. Along those lines, please do let me know if there is something you would like me to discuss. To me, the great joy of social media—apart from new grammatical and linguistic quirks like “Facebook me!” and “Tweet!”—is interactivity. If I say something that amuses, tell me! If you feel I’ve left something out, tell me that, too! If you think I am an irritating blowhard, tell me, but please understand that you will send me into an emotional tailspin, and there will be blood on your hands. It’s your choice.

Anyway, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I am currently on dinner break from Day Two of rehearsal. So far it’s going very well and, if you ask me, I think we’re ready to open. Still, the producers insist that we “rehearse,” so, the next time I get a break, I’ll write to tell you more about that process.

Thanks for reading; I look forward to spending time with you.


both as a teacher and a “fan” I am amazed at how little of the rehearsal process is known, seen and shared with potential audiences. anything that shows the arc of a passage’s development from reading through rehearsal to stage is welcome. a cooking analogy might suffice: on the way to making the dish, the chef also “illustrates” how to slice an onion, what goes into deciding which ingredient to use, etc. ALONG WITH the more general “recipe” and instructions. SEEING an actor and director grapple with a passage would be great.cheers!

jb — September 23, 2011

What an excellent suggestion! Consider it done. I love the cooking analogy. Thanks!

Louis Butelli — September 24, 2011