Take a journey to Shakespeare’s 16th-century Italy and venture into the Mauck Solarium far from the frigid weather for this spring’s annual Shakespeare in the Arb production of “The Merchant of Venice” on April 14th-15th at 2 p.m.
An enduring Shakespearean comedy, “The Merchant of Venice” develops a traditional message of justice and channels, according to the production’s director, junior Molly Kate Andrews, “an economy of human relationships through both trade, physical transaction, and grace, that as observed through Christian living.”
Andrews chose the play due to its interesting parallels and themes and cut the script in multiple places in order to provide a more concise storyline for the audience.
Controversially, the comedy is known for its anti-Semitic rhetoric, although ambiguity lies in whether the mockery in Shakespeare’s work is toward that of Christianity or the Jewish tradition.
“If the audience goes away comfortable, then we did the play wrong,” Andrews said. “The play is a commentary on Venice itself as it was full of different cultures living together at the time. Trade keeps the people together, while religion seperates them, although there is something deeper uniting the people.”
Stage manager sophomore Stephen Tanquist reiterated Andrews’ sentiment.
“Our reading of the play is that ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is a critique of anti-Semitism, rather than a reflection of Shakespeare’s personal views,” Tanquist said. “No matter the way it is read, it will make people uncomfortable.”
As found in the name, Shakespeare in the Arb is typically located in heart of Slayton Arboretum, creating a romantic and enchanting setting for the plays.
Due to the uncertainty of weather conditions, for the first time the Shakespeare in the Arb production will evolve into “Shakespeare in the Solarium,” a location change to the solarium of Mauck Dormitory.
Freshman Kirby Thigpen, who will be playing Portia in “The Merchant of Venice,” said, “I think Mauck will actually be a great setting, because it will be more intimate and the audience will actually be able to hear what we are saying.”
Andrews and Tanquist agree that the cast for “The Merchant of Venice” is particularly special and tailored for this rendition of Shakespeare’s work.
“It’s the cast, the people, that make it unique,” Andrews said. “If any actor were different, the play would be very different.”
Tanquist — who as the stage manager handles scheduling conflicts, ensures all actors are on set on time, keeps track of lines, writes notes for actors, and provides overall support for Andrews and co-director sophomore Mitchell Biggs — says the actors are putting in a lot of work with rehearsals, and there has been great progress.
“This week, I am going to rehearse every day for about three hours, and then we have dress rehearsals for five hours,” Thigpen said.
Apart from the location change, Tanquist says the way Andrews and Biggs have run the production this year is significantly different from that of last year’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew” with directors Noah Diekemper ’17 and senior Nikolai Dignoti.
“Molly Kate is an English major, and she has been planning this production since last summer, so she has taken time to really understand and read the script, especially as she has cut the script,” Tanquist said. “Her reading and vision for the play as a whole has brought a different approach than in the past.”