A Jewish take on Shylock’s tale
René Ruelas, (from left) is the Duke of Venice, Michael Goldberg is Shylock and Michael Joseph Mitchell is Anthonio in both of First Folio Theatre’s productions, "Shylock and his Daughter" and "The Merchant of Venice."
‘Shylock and His Daughter’
8:15 p.m. July 26, Aug. 2, 9 and 16
Tickets are $10
‘The Merchant of Venice’
8:15 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, through Aug. 19
Tickets: $26-$36, with discounts for students and seniors; concessions as well as pre-ordered box suppers from La Cuisine (prepaid 48 hours in advance) are also available. Gates open at 6:45 p.m.
Both productions by First Folio Theatre at Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook
Featuring lawn seating; attendees are invited to bring their own chairs or blankets, or rent one for $2 each at the concession stand
Call (630) 986-8067 or visit www.firstfolio.org
Updated: July 30, 2012 5:05PM
Imagine that Shakespeare had been Jewish. And imagine that he yearned to write about the experience of Jews in Venice during the 16th century. Now imagine that he wrote “The Merchant of Venice” from that point of view.
That’s the premise of “Shylock and His Daughter,” written by Maurice Schwartz and being performed at a staged reading four times over the next month at First Folio Theatre, located on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate at Route 83 and 31st Street in Oak Brook.
The play was originally written for the Yiddish theater.
Point of view
“It illuminates ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by reminding us that a story changes based on who’s telling it,” said Managing Director David Rice. “It’s an English translation of a Yiddish script from 1940 that itself was based on a Yiddish novel from the early 1900s.
“It’s written from the perspective of Jews,” he said. “There is historical evidence that Jews were using bribes to encourage the release of the Jews to live in Venice.”
The basic plot lines of “Merchant” are the same with some exceptions. Portia is married to Antonio (the character of Bassanio is not included). Shylock still wants his pound of flesh for his money lending, but the critical trial scene is different.
The staged reading will feature most of the same performers from “Merchant” in the Shakespeare play now running at First Folio. Actors will be in costume and they will perform on the main stage. The performances will take place at 8:15 p.m. Thursdays starting this week and Aug. 2, 9, and 16.
The addition of “Shylock and His Daughter” to the regular “Merchant” run is something special that developed normally, said Artistic Director Allison C. Veseley.
“We added one week to the regular performance schedule to allow everyone a chance to see it,” she added.
Rice said the concept for “Shylock and His Daughter” has been gestating in his creative mind for about 10 years. Those seeds were planted by his University of Illinois professor Michael Shapiro, an expert on Shakespeare and especially on “The Merchant of Venice.” Three other plays touch on the subject including a Hispanic version, a modern Los Angeles one and Christopher Marlowe’s “The Jew of Malta,” which preceded Shakespeare’s version.
Funding, alas, limited First Folio to choosing only one of the four to perform.
“Shylock and His Daughter” has not been performed by a professional group since 1940, said Veseley, so local viewers have a rare chance to witness this play and determine how it helps elucidate “The Merchant of Venice.”
“The language of the
play is more formalized,” said Vesely. “It’s not in verse so it’s more accessible to viewers.”