Telluride Repertory Theatre presents "The Merchant of Venice"

Telluride Repertory Theatre presents "The Merchant of Venice"

[click “Play”, Jeb Berrier speaks to Susan about “The Merchant of Venice”]

Merchant_poster The Telluride Repertory Theatre brings back the very popular Shakespeare in the Park series with one of the most controversial play’s in the Bard’s literature, the tragi-comedy “The Merchant of Venice.” The pared-down-to-the-bones production, directed by Jeb Berrier, takes place Saturday August 21 and Sunday, August 22, then again Wednesday, August 25 – Sunday, August, 29, 7:30 p.m. on the Main Stage in Telluride Town Park. (The performance on Saturday, August 28, however, is a 1 p.m. matinee.)

Individuals (like Hitler, and that’s a fact) and regimes (like the Nazis) seeking justification for hateful, sometimes murderous policies towards Jews turned to “The Merchant of Venice” and their good buddy Shakespeare. Is the play anti-Semitic? Did Shakespeare knowingly and intentionally write a play that disparaged Jews? Or, was he a writer and visionary whose brilliant mind transcended the prejudices of his age? It is important to remember that just as we are everyone and everything in our dreams, the Bard is famous for speaking through all his characters. Those who choose to believe in Shakespeare’s transcendence turn to Shylock’s great speech about humanity and revenge, Act 3, Scene1:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes?… If you prick us do we not bleed?”

One very hip and current solution to the very real problems that adhere to “The Merchant of Venice” is to view the play’s Christians as bad as the Jews, or worse. You balance a Jew moneylender’s grisly urge to physically cut his enemy’s heart from his body with the Christian merchant’s urge to symbolically cut his enemy’s soul from his body. Bigotry is bigotry. Vengeance by any other name…

As the story opens Antonio, a well-to-do Catholic merchant, curses and spits on Shylock, Jewish moneylender, not all the far-fetched in the context. In late 16th-century Venice, a vital trading port, in order to prevent inadvertant contact with Jews outdoors, Jews had to wear red hats whenever they left the Geto, later ghetto.  Ironically, shortly thereafter, the very same tormenter borrows, 3,000 ducats so that his friend, the cash-strapped Bassanio, can win the heart and hand of the rich and noble lady Portia. As guarantee, Shylock demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Thinking a new shipment of goods will arrive, Antonio agrees, only to discover everything is lost at sea. When the case comes before a Court of Justice, wily Portia disguises herself as a male juror deciding whether the bizarre bond is valid.
Seating is limited to 60 per night as we are all on the stage, and warm clothes are recommended. Show happens rain or shine. The audience is under cover.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to Jeb’s interview.

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