Merchant Of Venice With A Twist
Henley Street Theatre is putting a new and modern twist on The Merchant of Venice,directed by James Ricks.
“In this version we have turned Antonio into a woman,” Ricks said. “So instead of the homoerotic version, we’ve flushed it out and made it into a woman-man relationship.”
The emphasis that Ricks is portraying in this version of the play is on the commodification of love in relationships. Such changes were made because Ricks wanted to tweak the traditional play into something more modern and something more comprehensible to the audience.
“We wanted to make it as concise and accessible to a modern audience as possible,” he said. “On one hand, it’s easy to work with Shakespeare because he deals with architectural characters. On the other, it’s hard because of the era.”
Traditionally, Antonio is a man but in this version, Antonio becomes Antonia. This change was made due to the idea that in today’s world, women can do business in the world of stock and finance. While Antonia is still the merchant, she is a merchant in the stock and finances market and not a merchant of trade. Ricks hopes to offer a new dynamic to modern sensibility.
“It is not a man’s world anymore,” he said. “It is not unusual to see a woman in a position of power now. So why not incorporate into a modern take of the play?”
Racism, particularly anti-Semitism, can be seen among most of the characters towards a moneylender named Shylock. Shylock is usually a two dimensional character, portrayed as a caricature under most circumstances. The behavior from most characters in the play demonstrates the animosity towards Shylock.
“There is no subtext in Shakespeare, Ricks said. “He means what he says. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wield the language of the text. Behavior is behavior and if that helps us tell the story, then we’re doing our jobs right.”
As an idea, the blatant racism used through language will be removed. Only less educated characters, like Lancelot, will refer to Shylock as a Jew. Characters like Antonia will dislike Shylock not because he is Jewish but because of the way he does business.
“I took the more highly educated characters and moved all the racism out of the speech,” Ricks said. “I’ve kept in the lower education characters though. We maintained some of the language that address Shylock but we’ve given him more human proportion. We’ve focused more on his evil as a fixation.”
As part of this production, Henley Street Theatre will be hosting its 2011-2012 Fourth Wall Talk Back series. On Oct. 2, the discussion will cover political correctness and how it has emerged in the world today. On Oct. 9, the fundamental issues of law and equity will be discussed. Both of these talk backs will occur after the 2 p.m. performance.
Merchant of Venice plays SPARC Center of Performing Arts, 2106-A North Hamilton Street, from Sept. 22 to Oct. 15. For tickets and more information, visit henleystreettheatre.org.
Gillan Ludlow is a Fredericksburg native and attending Virginia Commonwealth University as a print journalism undergraduate.
As part of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival, Quill Theatre will offer their rendition of the tragic comedy, The Merchant of Venice. Directed by Dr. Jan Powell, the play follows a Venetian merchant, Bassanio, who falls in love with a wealthy heiress from a neighboring city. He has no choice but to borrow money from a [...]July 7, 2016
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