wwudrama will present Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice Saturday, May 14 and 21, at 9 p.m., Sunday, May 15 and 22, at 2 p.m., and Thursday, May 19, at 8 p.m., in Village Hall on the Walla Walla University campus.
The play and setting seek to explore the difficult relationships in race, ethnicity, and the changing landscape of the American popular culture of the 1950s. Set in the tumultuous social tensions of the McCarthy-era, Antonio is an upright politician and friend to love-struck greaser Bassanio. Bassanio needs money to try for the hand of Portia, an edgy rock and roller who was left the Belmont Diner by her father and with it a strange lottery for her hand in marriage. The only place for Bassanio to get the money is from Shylock, the Black Jew and civil rights lawyer who has plagued Antonio’s political maneuverings. When Shylock makes an unusual deal with Antonio for the money and the bond comes due, Bassanio must rush away from Portia to try and save Antonio’s life. A strange doctor steps in, and in the end we wonder who was the hero and who the villain.
“I feel as though this production provides a great opportunity to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, says David Crawford, director of wwudrama and assistant professor of communications. “It deals with bigotry, prejudice, religion, and more. Because we are setting it in the 1950s, it adds an element of racial tension. Our Shylock is a Black Jew, which allows for a greater discussion of the divide between our Christian understanding and those of other religions, as well as the racial tensions that were driving a changing society in the 1950s.”
The performance on Sunday, May 15, will include a director talk-back following the matinee production with Crawford and Terrie Aamodt, director of the WWU honors program and professor of history.
“I hope the audience takes away an appreciation of Shakespeare’s ability to tell a good story and a self-reflection of how we as a faith-based community can reach out to others and treat them with kindness and respect,” says Crawford.
For tickets and directions to Village Hall, visit drama.wallawalla.edu. Ticket prices range from $8 to $10 and for the Thursday, May 19, performance will be half-price at the door.
Posted May 10, 2016