Antoinette Robinson decided to move from New York to Washington earlier this year. Just as Trump came to town.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I definitely was a touch nervous,” says the Texas native. “Being a woman, and then on top of that, being a woman of color, and then on top of that, being a woman of color who identifies as bisexual, who at the moment is in a relationship with a woman…. Oh, goodness. I am a physical embodiment, a representation of all of the things that it seems this administration is inherently against.”
Robinson was drawn to the city after being cast in Folger Theatre’s As You Like It. During rehearsals, the actress took part in the Women’s March — getting up early to protest and “to make sure that their voice is heard. Especially where I come from, that’s pretty unheard of.”
But it was the D.C. theater scene that sealed the deal for the 30-year-old to make the move with her girlfriend. “The work that’s going on here is profound in so many ways. It’s incredibly diverse, the voices that are here in D.C.,” she says. “And the theaters around here are breaking boundaries left and right…and they’re not apologizing for it.”
Take Folger’s Timon of Athens. For starters, there’s the risk the company took in producing one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known, rarely staged works. “I consider myself a bit of a Shakespeare junkie,” Robinson says, but “it was one of those elusive texts…never something on my radar.”
But it was put on her radar after director Robert Richmond chose her to play Timon’s faithful servant Flavius, switching the character’s gender and race, without making any to-do about it in the show’s promotion. “It’s not done to be, ‘Hey, look what we did,'” she says. “It’s just, ‘This is it. This is what is on our stages. This is the world that we are reflecting. This is the truth.’
“We learn from the things that we see,” she continues. So for any theatergoer who might not be able to “get on board” with the change, there are countless others who will be inspired anew. “I think that it’s important to show someone that looks like me, and that maybe is even my age, reciting this text, on this stage.”
Timon of Athens runs to June 11 in the Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $35 to $75. Call 202-544-7077 or visit folger.edu.