Sopho­mores Stephen Tan­quist and Mitchel Biggs practice “The Mer­chant of Venice” Molly Kate Andrews. | Courtesy

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.”


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Isabella S. Redjai
Isabella Redjai is a junior and George Washington fellow from Irvine, CA, majoring in Political Economy with a minor in Journalism. This is her third year writing for The Collegian, and she currently serves as the Opinions Assistant Editor. She enjoys drinking Blue Bottle Coffee, reading the Wall Street Journal, and watching Audrey Hepburn movies.