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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.”