360° Viewfinder: The Merchant of Venice

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360° SERIES V I E W F I N D E R : FA C T S A N D P E R S P E C T I V E S O N T H E P L AY, P L AY W R I G H T, A N D P R O D U C T I O N

W W W . T FA N A . O R G

TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 3

A Note from the Founding Artistic Director


A Note from the Director


Dialogues: Bonds of Blood in The Merchant of Venice


by Tanya Pollard

Dialogues: Casting a Black Actor as Shylock Makes Perfect Sense


by Ishmael Reed

Interview: "This is Us, Which is Ugly": A Merchant for Here and Now


Arin Arbus and John Douglas Thompson in Conversation with Ayanna Thompson

Cast and Creative Team

About Theatre For a New Audience 31



Mission and Programs


Major Supporters

The Merchant of Venice is a co-production of Theatre for a New Audience and Shakespeare Theatre Company. Endowment support is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation Fund for Classic Drama. The Production is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Notes Front Cover: Art by Paul Davis This Viewfinder will be periodically updated with additional information. Last updated February 20, 2022.

Credits The Merchant of Venice 360° | Edited by Peter J. Cook. Resident Dramaturg: Jonathan Kalb | Council of Scholars Chair: Tanya Pollard | Designed by: Milton Glaser, Inc. Copyright 2022 by Theatre for a New Audience. All rights reserved. With the exception of classroom use by teachers and individual personal use, no part of this Viewfinder may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Some materials herein are written especially for our guide. Others are reprinted with permission of their authors or publishers.


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any brilliant actors have played Shylock, including Richard Burbage in the original production in the 1590s and, over the next 400 years, such celebrated performers as Charles Macklin, Henry Irving, Laurence Olivier, Jacob Adler, F. Murray Abraham*, George C. Scott, Al Pacino, Jonathan Pryce, and Patrick Stewart. Ira Aldridge, the first great American Shakespearean, left New York City for Britain in 1824 due to racial discrimination. Aldridge is rightly celebrated for his Othello, the first by a Black actor (though he could not play the role in America, only in Britain and Europe). In 1831, Aldridge became the first Black actor to play Shylock and three decades later was followed in the role in Britain by another African American actor, Samuel Morgan Smith. Black actors who went on to play Shylock in the United States include Paul Butler at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 1994 and Johnny Lee Davenport in 2005 at the Milwaukee Shakespeare Theatre. Nearly 200 years after Aldridge first starred in the role, John Douglas Thompson will be the first Black actor to play Shylock in New York City for Theatre for a New Audience. - Jeffrey Horowitz, TFANA Founding Artistic Director *In 2007, TFANA produced The Merchant of Venice with F. Murray Abraham as Shylock, directed by Darko Tresnjak in repertory with Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta directed by David Herskovits, exploring the two Elizabethan authors’ treatment of Jewish characters. TFANA’s 2007 production of Merchant toured to the RSC as part of the Complete Works Festival and in 2011 toured nationally. John Douglas Thompson (Shylock) in Theatre for a New Audience's production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Arin Arbus. Photo by Henry Grossman.



A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR A medieval center of trade and an early mercantile state, Venice is often considered a birthplace of capitalism. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's also the birthplace of the original ghetto. Within the world of Shakespeare’s predominantly Christian Venice, as a Jew, Shylock is treated as a secondclass citizen or worse. In 16th-century Venice, Jews were prohibited from practicing most professions. They were required to wear Jewish signifiers on their clothing. They were not allowed to own land, but rather had to rent homes within the gated ghetto that was locked every evening from 6pm to 12pm. The Merchant of Venice depicts a divided society saturated with hate and inequity. The world boils with anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, classism, and homophobia. In private, even Portia—the ingénue—makes overtly racist jokes about the color of the Prince of Morocco’s skin. In this deeply stratified society laws enforce inequity. The societal systems enable certain groups of people to have power and ensure that others don’t. In Shakespeare’s Venice, there’s predatory lending, a biased justice system, discriminatory practices in housing and commercial markets…. Any of that sound familiar? By casting a black man as Shylock in America in 2022, one becomes painfully aware of the connections between Shakespeare’s 16th-century Venice and our world now. The Merchant of Venice has a lot to say to us. I’m interested in directing a Merchant with a diverse group of artists, for a diverse audience. Theatrical meaning is created not just by the story being told, but through the bodies telling it. And with a diverse company and creative team, I want to discover what this play means to us in the here and now. - Arin Arbus, TFANA Resident Director John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


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Left: Danaya Esperanza (Jessica) in Theatre for a New Audience's production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Arin Arbus. Right: John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photos by Gerry Goodstein.


hat does blood demand, and must it be paid? The Merchant of Venice puts these questions onstage, and on trial. When Shylock’s daughter Jessica leaves her Jewish home for a Christian lover, she rejects the claims of blood. “Alack,” she reflects, “what heinous sin is it in me / To be ashamed to be my father’s child! / But though I am a daughter to his blood, / I am not to his manners.” In choosing manners, or behaviors, over blood, Jessica suggests that blood is only skin-deep, and can be disowned. “Farewell,” she later addresses her father in soliloquy, “and if my fortune be not crossed, / I have a father, you a daughter, lost.” For some of the play’s characters, Jessica’s apparent ability to cast off her parentage and religion raises

the question of whether she was ever really Shylock’s daughter, and Jewish, to begin with. “If a Christian did not play the knave and get thee,” Launcelot tells her, “I am much deceived.” When Shylock insists, “my daughter is my flesh and blood,” Salarino counters, “There is more difference between thy flesh and hers than between jet and ivory; more between your bloods than there is between red wine and Rhenish.” Similarly, Lorenzo and his friends repeatedly refer to “fair Jessica” and her “fair hand,” highlighting her pale skin to further whitewash her foreign roots. Echoing those who see Jessica as intrinsically separate from her Jewish father, Lorenzo calls her “a Gentile and no Jew,” implicitly echoing his ongoing references to “gentle Jessica.” The words gentile and gentle (from the Latin gens, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE


BONDS OF BLOOD IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE TANYA POLLARD the root of genetics, genus, and generation) are embedded in ideas of birth and race. If family serves as a microcosm for the larger religious and racial communities that the play links with blood, Jessica abandons not only her father, but also her race. It's not clear, however, whether she succeeds. Many of the play’s characters echo Shylock in defining Jessica by her blood. Despite wondering if she has a Christian father, Launcelot continues to address her as “Most beautiful pagan, most sweet Jew!” When Jessica arrives in Belmont, Gratiano refers to “Lorenzo and his infidel,” and asks Nerissa to “cheer yon stranger,” starkly labeling her foreign in contrast to his “friends and countrymen,” Lorenzo and Salerio. Even after her apparent conversion, Launcelot warns, “truly I think you are damned,” unless “you are not the Jew’s daughter.” In attributing Jessica’s Judaism to her blood rather than

her beliefs or behaviors, Launcelot echoes Shylock, who refers to other Jews as “our countrymen” and “our sacred nation” (from Latin natus, having been born). Has Jessica really become a Christian, or is she merely passing as one? In the world of this play, is it possible to break the bonds of blood? Jessica is not the play’s only daughter who wants to shake off her parentage. Early in Portia's first scene, she voices her frustration at the constraints imposed by her father. “Oh me,’ she laments, “... I may neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.” While Portia does not defy her father outright, she arguably does so indirectly when she calls for music to frame Bassanio’s choice of casket. “Tell me where is fancy bred?,” an ensuing song asks, “Or in the heart, or in the head? / How begot, how nourished?” Bassanio

Isabel Arraiza (Portia), Sanjit De Silva (Bassanio), Jeff Biehl (Balthazar), and Shirine Babb (Nerissa). Photo by Henry Grossman.


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BONDS OF BLOOD IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE TANYA POLLARD echoes these emphatic rhymes, referring to “the dowry of a second head, / The skull that bred,” just before correctly choosing the lead casket. The play doesn’t say who sings these lyrics, but singing was a specialty of boy actors, such as the one playing Portia. Whether Portia sings these lines or instructs a servant to sing them, her conspicuous support for Bassanio suggests a betrayal of her father’s law. And while Portia does not change religion, race, or nation, she also joins Jessica in presenting herself as different from the identity to which she was born. In passing as a young male legal scholar to rule on Shylock’s bond, Portia casts aside the constraints of blood to become someone new. Jessica and Portia’s transformations have consequences, but neither is complete. After carrying out her legal intervention, Portia switches back, removing her male clothes and returning to her role as lady of the house. Jessica’s status at the end of the play is less clear. Her banter with Lorenzo is haunted by references to classical female figures linked with tragic abandonment – Cressida, Thisbe, Dido, and Medea – implicitly raising questions about her past and future. Her ambivalent Danaya Esperanza (Jessica). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

relationship to her blood hovers behind Shylock’s own unresolved ending. When Shylock first agrees to lend Antonio money for no interest, Antonio replies, “The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.” This claim is ironic in the light of Shylock’s vindictiveness, but after Shylock is indicted for contriving against Christian blood, Antonio’s words become prescient. Commanded to convert, Shylock enters the same uncertain status as Jessica. Whether or not he could ever inwardly identify as Christian, the play’s Venetians seem likely to continue seeing his blood as distinct from theirs. What does blood demand, and must it be paid? Macbeth warns that “blood will have blood,” and The Merchant of Venice suggests a similarly fatalist pattern. Shylock’s “alien” blood draws abuse from the Venetians, prompting a cycle of revenge, while obligations of blood give way to daughters' carnal longings. Ultimately it’s not blood itself, but the stories told about blood that spur cruelty and restrict freedoms in the play. Still, there are costs, and not everyone pays equally. By imagining a racially diverse Venice, with different prejudices compounding each other, this production does more than bring the play into twenty-first century conversations about race. It also defamiliarizes a play that many of us think we know, making us look at it with new eyes. The play’s preoccupations with blood show that responses to racial identities have always been at its heart. Foregrounding these responses in a world that looks like our own brings the play back to life, and invites us to reflect on the ways its bonds of blood continue to resonate today. • TANYA POLLARD (Chair, TFANA Council of Scholars) is Professor of English at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Her books include Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages (2017), Drugs and Theater in Early Modern England (2005), Shakespeare’s Theater: A Sourcebook (2003), and four co-edited collections of essays on early modern drama, emotions, bodies, and responses to Greek plays. She appeared in Shakespeare Uncovered: Macbeth (PBS, 2013) with Ethan Hawke and in Shakespeare Uncovered: King Lear (PBS, 2015) with Christopher Plummer. Beyond her involvement with TFANA, she has worked with artists and audiences at theaters including the Red Bull, the Public, the Classic Stage Company, and the Roundabout. A former Rhodes Scholar, she has received fellowships from the NEH, Whiting, and Mellon foundations.




John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Henry Grossman.


ontraditional casting doesn’t always work. Done naively or cynically, casting actors of color in roles originally conceived as white, or as white historical figures, distorts or outright erases race and racism from the lives depicted onstage. It works in The Merchant of Venice, though, because while distinct, there are parallels between the experiences of Jews in Europe and Blacks in the United States. Shylock is referred to as a devil, a fiend, and a dog, terms with which Black men have been demonized and animalized since Salem. And the play contrasts Shylock’s abuse of his daughter, Jessica, with the Christian men’s courtesy toward women. In this, Merchant reminds one of the films that purport to offer a “nuanced” treatment of the segregated South. Hollywood cautions us not to be too 8

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sympathetic to Black men, often seen abusing their wives and children, while assuring us that a white man—whatever his attitude toward, say, Medgar Evers and his murder—is at least gentleman enough to help a Black woman with her groceries. Casting Jessica as a Black woman helps us locate Merchant in the lineage of the “White Savior” narrative—that box office favorite for centuries, in which a white person (usually a white male) persuades a woman of color to abandon her background with the promise of assimilation. Jessica not only runs away with a broke Christian but gives him her father’s money. Black women are well-accustomed to being presumed untrustworthy in a white society—followed in department stores, for example—as well as, like Jessica, exoticized and sexualized. Think of the Tenderloin Riot of 1900,

CASTING A BLACK ACTOR AS SHYLOCK MAKES PERFECT SENSE ignited when a white policeman mistook a Black man’s girlfriend for a prostitute. Shylock, called an “inhuman wretch” by a courtroom full of enslavers, reminds them that they are the ones treating human beings like asses, dogs, and mules. Through Shylock, Shakespeare points out the hypocrisies of slavery that England and her colonial descendants would perpetuate for centuries. (The supposedly enlightened Hamilton, for one, in letters and his law practice, upheld the Danaya Esperanza (Jessica). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


notion that enslaved people were as much property as cows and horses.) Shylock argues that if they can own whole human beings, why can’t he own a piece of one? But like many Black men who find themselves in the courtroom, Shylock can’t win against a rigged system. The Duke, as presiding officer, and Portia, acting as judge, are personally biased against Jews, but it’s the anti-Semitism of the law that gives them scope to bankrupt and humiliate Shylock. Portia’s much-quoted “quality of mercy” speech articulates another hypocrisy of a dominant majority, here Christians. They’re always asking that we not be angry, to turn the other cheek while vigilantes and rogue police officers run amok, shooting us while we’re lying in bed. She urges Shylock to show mercy, but prosecuting him, she is merciless. She seizes his property and forces him to become a Christian—the sort of proselytizing that goes on in Boccacio’s The Decameron. Not only were Jews living under miserable conditions during this period, but they had to put up with Christians pestering them into conversion. I think that Shakespeare ultimately bowed to the prejudices of his audiences by having Shylock cower under Portia’s sophistry. He becomes the dog who is defanged. My late lawyers, Abraham Freedman and Ellis Friedman, would have ripped her arguments to pieces. Should a Black man play Shylock? A better question: Why have so few been given the opportunity? John Douglas Thompson has got the acting chops to do a great job. I hope it’s seen by as many people as possible. • ISHMAEL REED is the author of over twenty-five books including Mumbo Jumbo, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Conjugating Hindi, Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico and most recently Malcolm and Me and Why the Black Hole Sings the Blues. He is also a publisher, television producer, songwriter, radio and television commentator, lecturer, and has long been devoted to exploring an alternative black aesthetic: the trickster tradition, or Neo-Hoodooism. A regular contributor to CounterPunch and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley for over thirty years, retiring in 2005. Reed is the only person to be nominated for the National Book Award in two categories in the same year.




Shirine Babb (Nerissa), Graham Winton (Salerio), John Douglas Thompson (Shylock), Sanjit De Silva (Bassanio), Alfredo Narciso (Antonio), Nate Miller (Jailer). Photo by Henry Grossman.


idway through rehearsals for The Merchant of Venice, Ayanna Thompson of Theatre for a New Audience’s Council of Scholars (and a Consulting Scholar on the production) spoke via Zoom with director Arin Arbus and actor John Douglas Thompson. AYANNA THOMPSON What was the genesis

of this production? I know you two have worked together several times over the years. When did this first percolate up to the surface? And what were your initial thoughts about it? JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON It started with—we

did Othello together, what was that? 2008? ARIN ARBUS 2008 and ’09, yeah. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON And there was a

point in time, maybe four or five years ago, I was interested in doing it again. Or doing a production of Othello with some similar cast, just taking another shot at it. And that wasn’t able to happen. And then, we—partially me and partially Jeffrey 10

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[Horowitz] and partially Arin—we came up with this idea, “Well, what about Merchant of Venice? What about Shylock?” And it was something that I’d been interested in playing because I had played it before, but like 25 years ago. And there’s a similarity in character, to me, between Othello and Shylock in the nature of their otherness. AYANNA THOMPSON And Arin, what attracted

you to that proposition? ARIN ARBUS I think it’s a really good role for

John. I was really excited by the idea, just in terms of embodying the person who says the words that are in this play. I could immediately imagine John being great. I also didn’t know what it would mean to have a Black man in that role. And that was exciting to me. So, I was immediately really intrigued by the idea. AYANNA THOMPSON And what do you think the

production brings to this moment in 2022? Why do you think this is an important play for us to return to now?



ugliest plays. I think it’s a world filled with hate and intolerance. And I think the play’s an indictment of capitalism and the cages that capitalism puts individuals in and the hierarchies. And unfortunately, it feels very close to the world that we live in.

(laughter) No –

And we are setting the production in—every time I try and say it, I giggle a little bit, I’m a little bit embarrassed—but we’re setting the production in the near future. Just because there are such specific circumstances in the play that are a little different from our world. And yet, I can imagine a world in which, in America, there is a literal ghetto with a wall that Jews are forced to live in, in a couple of years. And it seemed exciting and important to have the company reflect the world that we live in. So, it’s a racially diverse cast. AYANNA THOMPSON John, what is it like to

play a Black Jewish character, in the near future, in which there is a walled ghetto?

AYANNA THOMPSON Afropessimism. (laughter) JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON What was exciting

to me was, obviously, we live in a world where there is a Jewish struggle that, to me, is similar to the Black struggle. There is anti-Blackness and there is also anti-Semitism. So, having me be that figure, kind of representing both—because there’s a lot of intersectionality, I think, between those two struggles—was kind of exciting. Shylock is, in my mind, a proxy for the other, if you will. Whether that other is Black, whether that other is immigrant, whether that other is based upon gender, whether that other is based upon sex, whether that other is based upon religion, culture... Shylock, for me, represents all those others. And I feel that we do live in this world where large groups of people, different people, are being persecuted for their differences. And this allows me on some activist level, to speak to that as an actor. Just some little actor

Yonatan Gebeyehu (Solanio), John Douglas Thompson (Shylock) and Alfredo Narciso (Antonio). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.



"THIS IS US, WHICH IS UGLY" ARIN ARBUS & JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON WITH AYANNA THOMPSON trying to speak to some of the bigger issues of the world. Shakespeare, for me, does that. So, to be a participant, being Shylock as a Black Jew, enables me to bring that message.

AYANNA THOMPSON Isn’t that what August

The idea of having a very diverse cast that looks like the communities that we live in was also important. Because oftentimes, when you do these kinds of plays, you just don’t see that, right? It’s often binary, right? It’s Black and white or maybe just all white, which is sometimes even more challenging because then it’s making a larger statement that other people aren’t really necessary, or wanted, or valued in this world. So, this level of diversity, and having it look like the world that we live in, gives value and credence to all these other types of people.

specificity, this level of religious persecution that is forced by the Christians against the Jews. That level of specificity, or that lens, allows a wider scope to be addressed, I think.

So, that’s what makes it feel right for me. It’s not as if I wanted to say, “This has got to be done from a Black Jew’s sole perspective.” That is the touchstone, but there’s much more to address. And if I can address it specifically, then the play can speak universally, if that makes any sense.

Wilson said? That the way to universality is through specificity. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON And singular

AYANNA THOMPSON And I think it’s fantastic

that you are now entering into a line that’s not very long of Black actors who’ve played Shylock—but maybe this will be a tipping point? We have Ira Aldridge, who famously incorporated performances of Merchant of Venice into his touring shows in Eastern Europe. And we have Paul Butler in Peter Sellars’ [1994 production at the Goodman] and maybe a handful of others. But you will be the first on a major New York stage. So, does that mean something to you as well? Or is that something that you don’t think about?

Left: Ira Aldridge as Shylock. Photo by I. Asanova (?). St. Petersburg, Russia, 1858. Image courtesy of Chesapeake Theatre Company's digital exhibition "Ira Aldrige: Theatrical Trailblazer." Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Original image in the Aldridge Collection, McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University, MS 4. Above: John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Henry Grossman. 12

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about it a lot. I do think about it some. And it’s meaningful. It’s really about passing the torch. Because I know some other actors, like the great late Johnny Lee Davenport, who was kind of a mentor to me, who did [the role] many, many years ago. I met him at Shakespeare & Company and he talked to me about that role and that performance and what that meant to him. But it is my hope that by doing this we will see a female Shylock, we’ll see an Asian Shylock, a Latinx Shylock. Because the role is there for everyone. And thinking of Judaism as purely white, when there are so many non-white Jews… hopefully my performance can be the beginning of that opening and we can start to look at this role in a diverse nature, as it should be looked at, certainly in the 21st century. John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

AYANNA THOMPSON Arin, I wonder, now that

the production is up on its feet, what have you learned through hearing the dialogue being spoken? ARIN ARBUS God, I don’t know yet, to be honest

with you. I’m feeling very affected by Act Five and the ending of the play, which is—even today in staging it, I’m shocked by it, it just is horrendous. And the last line, which is a vagina joke, I can’t even believe that it’s there. I knew that that’s what it was, and I knew it was this weird, uncomfortable joke. But then, we staged it and I actually don’t know what to do. I was so kind of offended by it, that I thought, “Maybe I have to tell Haynes [Thigpen], who’s playing Gratiano, maybe I’ve gotta tell him not to be so awful.” But he’s doing the text! I’m not being very articulate because I haven’t wrapped my brain around the experience of the play yet. AYANNA THOMPSON I do think in the 21st

century, it’s hard to have a production that ends comedically. Because the play does shut so many people out, it does reinforce a bizarre superstructure that we may be thinking about deconstructing in our world now. Maybe showing that mirror of horror up in the production will open up dialogues for the audience about potential changes that we’d want to make in the world we live in. ARIN ARBUS That would be amazing. I think

that’s what Shakespeare’s intention was. AYANNA THOMPSON John, has anything

surprised you in the language, now that you are in the staging phase? JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON I guess the same

thing that always surprises, or that I become aware of, in this stage of a production, is the potency of the language. It feels real. And the way that people express themselves, albeit in a nasty way sometimes. But what sticks out to me is the contradictions of the characters: they say one thing and they do another, or they profess that they are one thing, but they actually are the opposite of that. So, what really THE MERCHANT OF VENICE


"THIS IS US, WHICH IS UGLY" ARIN ARBUS & JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON WITH AYANNA THOMPSON strikes me is the humanity that I think is in the language, because I think people are that way. I remember having discussions with Arin, that this is not a play that is happening in outer space, or with another species. This is us, which is ugly. And then there’s also beautiful aspects of the play, which is also us. So, as I get to this stage of the game, and I give all credit to Shakespeare. Wow, how well he understood people. Their intentions, their motivations. So, what surprises me is how real it can become with a group of people when they’re working on it. The language has potency, it really has urgency, and complications, and cost. AYANNA THOMPSON I think this play has

potentially more direct language than some other of Shakespeare plays. Maybe it’s related to what you were just saying, that people say one thing

and do the exact opposite. And so, in fact, you need what they’re saying to be pretty clear for the divide between the spoken word and the action to resonate with the audience. It doesn’t have any of that weird circumambient language of Macbeth or even King Lear, where it’s knotty, knotty, and hard to say. That’s not what this play does, right? JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON No. Every

character is extremely contradictory which, as an actor, becomes really interesting to play. Because oftentimes, as an actor, it’s like, “Oh, I need to even this out. If I say this in this scene, I need to be that, or follow through with that.” Whereas people, normal people, everyday people, say one thing and mean another, can be mean to someone, and then kind to the next person they meet... and that’s just who we are.

Shirine Babb (Nerissa), Varín Ayala (Jailer), Sanjit De Silva (Bassanio), Alfredo Narciso (Antonio). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


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"THIS IS US, WHICH IS UGLY" ARIN ARBUS & JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON WITH AYANNA THOMPSON So, as I was watching the play today, I was like, “Oh, these are just people.” These are just people living their life as they think it should be and going through their life with a certain amount of intention; whether it hurts another person or not is not their concern. It’s really about how can I move forward in my life? AYANNA THOMPSON I think that’s absolutely

right. I also think the casual racism and antiSemitism that is spoken in the play is very real in our life now. You hear snatches of conversation on street corners and you’re like, “I can’t believe they’re actually saying that.” And you know that they’re not horrible, evil people. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON Yeah. There was

a story—did you see it on CNN, Arin? I think it happened in Brooklyn, where this woman spat on this 8-year-old Jewish child. And then said a bunch of racial epithets to this kid. That just happened like two days ago. And we talk about that in the play, which is 400 years old. So, there’s a sameness to the world that we live in that is also the world that we’re playing out in Merchant of Venice.

AYANNA THOMPSON And the people who know

that woman who spat on the child probably think that she’s nice and normal in the rest of her life. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON She probably has a

child herself, that she loves to death and is gonna go home and cook dinner, and then dress him up for school, and go to school... you know, all those things that good people do. But they’re also capable of very, very bad things. And it’s not just one person. As I watched the play, I was like, “Oh, we’re all guilty of the same stuff.” AYANNA THOMPSON Arin, I was wondering if

you could talk about some of the women in the play and how you’re staging them in this production? ARIN ARBUS The women are really alone in this

world. I’m not thinking of Portia and Nerissa as besties, which is a legit way to stage it. But we are emphasizing the fact that Nerissa is employed by Portia. And in this production, Portia is a Latinx woman, Nerissa’s a Black woman. So, Portia’s racism against the Prince of Morocco is particularly

Shirine Babb (Nerissa) and Isabel Arraiza (Portia). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.



"THIS IS US, WHICH IS UGLY" ARIN ARBUS & JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON WITH AYANNA THOMPSON pointed, or I hope heard or felt, because of Nerissa’s identity and reaction. Yesterday, we were looking at the scene where Portia gives the keys to Lorenzo and Jessica. And I was sort of pushing Isabel [Ariza], who’s playing Portia, to be disrespectful to Jessica. Because I think Portia is anti-Semitic and I think Jessica’s experience in Belmont is terrible. And Isa was like, “I think that’s not necessary. I just want to be nice to her. She’s another woman and she’s here, I just want to…” And it’s just not—that’s not the play. In addition to dealing with anti-Semitism and racism and xenophobia, I think the play is also dealing with misogyny and patriarchy. And they all find themselves trapped within these systems or issues. AYANNA THOMPSON And unable to imagine

other systems. ARIN ARBUS Yeah, and at times enforcing the

same old systems. AYANNA THOMPSON Oh, absolutely. Even

when they feel as if they’re transgressing through

crossdressing, et cetera, it’s just to shore up the same system. It’s a remarkable play for the characters’ lack of creativity. I think about other Shakespeare comedies where the young people are running off to the woods and having a good time. Think about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they’re breaking the rules, imagining swapping lovers. Merchant is a whole bunch of people who cannot think their way into a new world, right? ARIN ARBUS That’s so beautifully put. AYANNA THOMPSON For me, one of the most

heartbreaking lines, John, is when Shylock talks about the turquoise ring from Leah, his wife, and the fact that his daughter has traded it for a monkey. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON A monkey, yeah.

I think it gives a new level of understanding of Shylock to those that are listening, if it’s heard. Of the kind of man he was. It gives credence to this back story that he was happily married. He loved his wife and he still remembers the days when he was courting her, so to speak, his bachelor days when he met her, and this wonderful exchange that

Danaya Esperanza (Jessica) and Nate Miller (Lancelet Gobbo). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


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"THIS IS US, WHICH IS UGLY" ARIN ARBUS & JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON WITH AYANNA THOMPSON was given from one to another. And the fact that it wasn’t valued enough by his daughter to say, “Okay, no, not that ring. That ring is really important for my mom who’s no longer here and definitely for my father. We cannot sell that. Sell everything else, but not the ring.” So, it also makes me feel like, “Oh, she was in such a mood that she didn’t know what she was doing.” I get the feeling—I have to as a father—[that] she was led by some other people. I know my daughter wouldn’t do this on her own. So, it expresses who Shylock was back then and who he is now. And the fact that he still loves his daughter: “How could she have done this, how could she have hurt me in that way? She must not have known.” So, yeah, I think about it as a really interesting thing to say for Shylock and his [marriage], but it also hints to my connection to my daughter. AYANNA THOMPSON And of course, it sets up

this odd parallel, where we have Portia, who’s

apparently abiding by the will of her father, and Jessica, who’s breaking the will of her father, right? JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON Because I don’t

know why she does what she does, running off with a Christian and becoming a Christian—I still almost can’t believe that. I almost feel she was forced into that. There’s a part of me that is mad at her for this, but another part [believes] that she was led astray by the people that have been persecuting us forever. And of course, under that level of pressure, yes, she did something really wrong. But if I could get her back, if I could get her back… and maybe she wants to come back. So, that’s the backstory in my mind. It’s not about her leaving me, it’s about her almost making her way back to me, so I have to find her. I have to find her. It is an amazing line for the fact that it does give people this insight into, maybe, the romantic Shylock. Because I do feel like he’s really alone. He’s so alone. Without anyone to reach out to, particularly after his daughter is gone.

John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Henry Grossman.




AYANNA THOMPSON I love that distinction

palpable, and the fact that he is a widower. And as you say, we get that one glimpse into the past life. You realize, what was that play? What was the play when Shylock and Leah…?

between clothes and costumes.


ARIN ARBUS Yeah, because this is not about kings

and queens, or gods, or heroes. It’s about us. It’s about the people in the audience.

their romance. I do feel it was a happy relationship. I want to believe that it was. And it’s gone.

AYANNA THOMPSON The aural landscape: what

AYANNA THOMPSON Arin, can you tell us about

ARIN ARBUS There actually is not very much

the set design and costumes? What does your near future world look like? ARIN ARBUS The set designer is Riccardo

Hernandez, whom I’ve worked with on many shows. And we started looking at images of just Venice, actually. And steps in Venice is what we sort of kept coming back to. And then, we were actually also looking at red carpet events, strangely, like the James Bond movie premiere, which seems totally insane. But the architecture—I sort of saw it in passing, and the architecture was so similar to the steps in Venice, with this huge red carpet. And there was something about the fact that it’s these sort of fabulous people in the play, these very wealthy, very glamorous people who are behaving in such ugly ways, that felt interesting to me. And then Riccardo was looking at the architecture from the Third Reich, and it actually looks like a James Bond movie premiere, strangely. And the play is so much about hierarchies, so that also felt sort of connected. And then, we have a wall. The material is concrete, which is what you use to make a wall to divide certain people from other people. But it’s also chic. Rich people have concrete floors in their kitchens. And it’s eternal, it’s ancient, and in 1,000 years, if there are still people around, they will be probably making things out of concrete. And the costumes are very much of now, they feel very much of the contemporary moment—there’s no space suits or anything like that. (laughter) And Emily Rebholz is designing the costumes and she has an amazing eye for clothes, as opposed to costumes. And that’s what I hope it will feel like. 18

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does it sound like? Do you have music? music in this play. I think we will have music. We’re still developing that. I think we’ll really hear it in tech for the first time. But I don’t think I’ve ever directed a Shakespeare play with less music than this one. AYANNA THOMPSON It’s back to that language:

the language is so spot on that you don’t even have to amplify the mood with music or anything, right? Isabel Arraiza (Portia).Photo by Henry Grossman.


AYANNA THOMPSON And John, what about for

release, something joyous, or a break from what’s going on through music. And in this play, there is not.

you? Have you thought about where Shylock would be in Act Six?

AYANNA THOMPSON Speaking of lack of a

this book, it’s an old book, it’s about Shylock after the end of the play. I haven’t read it yet, but the synopsis was, after Shylock is forced through baptism to become Christian, what his life entails moving down that road.

break, what do you both imagine is Act Six of Merchant of Venice? We’ve talked about the missing love story for Shylock, the birth of Jessica, the happy times. Where are we in Act Six, after this production? ARIN ARBUS Well, I think you have a different

play for every person because I don’t think they’re in the same place together. (laughter) AYANNA THOMPSON Ah, yeah. So, some people

are in a comedy, some people are in a tragedy, some are in a history.... ARIN ARBUS Everyone kind of ends up alone.

Even the couples, they’re isolated from each other. There’s nobody who is…. In my fantasy world, the sixth act is a reunion between Shylock and Jessica. That’s my fantasy.


I can see an Act Six where Shylock expires. He gives up. Particularly if Jessica is never coming back. What is there to really live for? I could see that, where Shylock just checks out. It’s awfully depressing, of course, because you want to think that you just keep going. But I think the events that have happened in Shylock’s life, in these two weeks or whatever, are enough for him to just say, “I’m done.” Or he goes back to the Rialto and making deals again. AYANNA THOMPSON I was going to say, Venice

doesn’t work without him as a money lender.

Danaya Esperanza (Jessica) and David Lee Huynh (Lorenzo). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.




different now: how is he being treated by the Christians, and then how is being treated by the Jews? Where is he living? Did he get to move out of the ghetto? Is he moving in a different place? Did he leave Venice and just go somewhere else? I don’t know. I feel like, certainly, after the courtroom, how do you come back from that? You know what I mean? What is your comeback when they got you like that? You know the law will never work in your favor. Even though I’ve become Christian, they can probably say, “You’re still an alien, so you don’t have the rights of other Christians.” So what has that left? Or I can see an Act Six where he just keeps looking for Jessica, he will not give up the search looking for his daughter. Because he knows when he finds her, he can talk her back home or talk them back into a relationship. AYANNA THOMPSON Wow. Pretty profound. John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


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So, what do you hope people will bring to the production? And what do you hope they’ll take away from the production? JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON Oh, that’s a

director’s question. ARIN ARBUS I hope that people will come to

experience the play, interpreted by this company, with an open heart. That’s what I think you always want. I hope that they recognize the limits of the world as it is. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON A weird part of me

wants them to come in with their prejudices and biases and— ARIN ARBUS They will, John. We don’t have to

worry about that. (laughter) JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON And if that’s the

case, then [I hope] they are severely challenged. And that a debate can happen. If not with each other, individually: a dialogue with themselves because they saw something that challenged their

"THIS IS US, WHICH IS UGLY" ARIN ARBUS & JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON WITH AYANNA THOMPSON preconceptions. And maybe, in the best of all possible worlds, a commitment to do better, to be better, to be open, to be more accepting, to be more tolerant, those kinds of things. And I think that’s all that an actor has. Sometimes, I look at what I do and say, it’s so frivolous, it’s like making candy, or making a doll. What purpose is this going to have to another human being? But listen, I became an actor because I saw something that moved me profoundly, [August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Yale Rep in 1986]. So, I know this work can change people because it changed me. That’s why I do it. I always feel like whenever I’m performing, there’s one person that needs something that I have to give, and I have to meet John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Henry Grossman.

them. If I’m not prepared to fully give within the nature of the work that I’m doing, I’m going to miss them. We’re not going to meet. And they leave without something they needed, and I leave knowing I didn’t give something that I should’ve. Because when I sat and I watched that August Wilson play, they were doing something for me. It was as if they were performing for me. And maybe I needed something. I guess I did. And they gave it to me. They gave it to me. So, I think theater, whatever it is we do, can be a gift to others. It really can, I believe in the power of it. So, I hope this will affect people and shift them. AYANNA THOMPSON I think that’s where we can

end, because I think that’s why you’re considered one of the greatest working actors in theater today. It’s the commitment that you bring to your craft, and it’s there every night you’re on stage. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON Thank you. AYANNA THOMPSON Thank you so much for

your time, it’s really a pleasure talking to you about this challenging piece of art. And I can’t wait to hear the debates at TFANA. • AYANNA THOMPSON is a Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, and the Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS). She is the author of Blackface (Bloomsbury, 2021), Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars (Arden Bloomsbury, 2018), Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A StudentCentred Approach, co-authored with Laura Turchi (Arden Bloomsbury, 2016), Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2011), and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (Routledge, 2008). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 Othello (Arden, 2016), and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave, 2010), and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (Routledge, 2006). She is currently collaborating with Curtis Perry on the Arden4 edition of Titus Andronicus. In 2020 Thompson became a Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at The Public Theater in New York. In 2021, she joined the boards of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Parks Arts Foundation, and Play On Shakespeare. Previously, she served as the President of the Shakespeare Association of America, one of Phi Beta Kappa’s Visiting Scholars, a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars, and a member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre board.





ISABEL ARRAIZA (Portia) stars as one of the leads in the upcoming Amazon/Plan B series “Outer

Range.” Film credits include The Little Things opposite Rami Malek and Denzel Washington, Driven opposite Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace and American Dreamer opposite Jim Gaffigan. Theatre credits include Julius Caesar at The Public Theater, Minnetti at the Barbican Centre in London and Intersections at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. She obtained her MFA from The Juilliard School. From Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. VARÍN AYALA (Prince of Arragon/Jailer) is thrilled to be working at TFANA again (Taming of the Shrew),

and with STC for the first time. He has worked extensively in New York and regional theatre, and has done readings and workshops with just about every Off-Broadway company you can imagine. Most recent TV: “Younger,” opposite Sutton Foster. Fun fact: he has an MS in chemical engineering that he hasn’t used since 2002.From San Germán, Puerto Rico. In memory of Marlene Johnson. IG: therealvarinayala SHIRINE BABB (Nerissa). Broadway: Macbeth, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (OBC). Off-Broadway:

Timon of Athens (TFANA); Napoli, Brooklyn (Roundabout); The Crucible, Mary Stuart (Bedlam). Regional: Shakespeare Theatre Co., the Kennedy Center, Hartford Stage, Roundhouse Theatre, Folger Theatre, Huntington Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, The Old Globe, Widows (London). Television: upcoming series (Apple+), “Iron Fist,” “I Love You…But I Lied,” “Blue Bloods,” “Madam Secretary.” Training: East 15 Acting, MA; Old Globe, MFA. JEFF BIEHL (Balthazar). Broadway: Machinal (Roundabout). Off-Broadway: Life Sucks (Drama Desk

nom, Wheelhouse), Catch as Catch Can (Page73), Charles Francis Chan’s Jr’s… (NAATCO), 10 out of 12 (Soho Rep), Poor Behavior (Primary Stages), Burning (The New Group), Isaac’s Eye (EST). Regional: premieres at Yale Rep, Denver Center, Woolly Mammoth and Humana Festival. Film: Worth, A Master Builder, Ricki and the Flash. TV: “The Path,” “Vinyl,” “Mysteries of Laura,” “Forever,” “Southland,” all “Law & Order.” Juilliard. Jeff Biehl (Balthazar), Varín Ayala (Prince of Arragon) and Shirine Babb (Nerissa). Photo by Henry Grossman.


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THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM SANJIT DE SILVA (Bassanio). Broadway: War Horse (Tony Award, Best Play). Off-Broadway: An

Ordinary Muslim (NYTW), Troilus and Cressida (NYSF/The Public Theater), Dry Powder (The Public Theater, Lucille Lortel and Outer Critic’s Circle nomination for Best Featured Actor), Awake and Sing! (NAATCO), Macbeth (NYSF/The Public Theater), The Little Foxes (NYTW). Film/TV: Farewell Amor, After Party, The Girl is in Trouble, The Company Men, Arranged, “New Amsterdam,” “Evil,” “Tell Me a Story,” “Blindspot,” “Time After Time,” “The Blacklist,” “High Maintenance.” MFA: NYU Graduate Acting. DANAYA ESPERANZA (Jessica). Select credits include Off-Broadway: Bayano (NBT), For Colored

Girls… (The Public Theater), The Tempest (Mobile), Twelfth Night (Mobile), Breitwisch Farm (Esperance), Mary Jane (NYTW), Men on Boats (Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb), Washeteria (Soho Rep), Our Lady of Kibeho (Signature). Regional: Alma (Denver Center), Annie Salem (NYSF), Romeo and Juliet (STC), Another Word for Beauty (Goodman Theatre). TV: “The Blacklist,” “Elementary.” Training: The Juilliard School (Raúl Juliá Memorial Scholarship in Drama). YONATAN GEBEYEHU (Solanio). Off-Broadway: Timon of Athens (TFANA), Persuasion (Bedlam

Theater), I Thought I Would Die, But I Didn’t (New Georges/The Tank). Regional: Timon of Athens, Everybody (STC); Go. Please. Go (Montana Rep); Noises Off, Romeo and Juliet (Chautauqua Theater Company); A Christmas Carol (Portland Stage Company). TV: “Prodigal Son” (FOX); “Elementary,” “Madam Secretary” (CBS). Digital: Lessons in Survival (Vineyard), 86’d (Bric Arts). Training: University of California San Diego, MFA in acting. Yonatan-Gebeyehu.com Alfredo Narciso (Antonio), Yonatan Gebeyehu (Solanio), and John Douglas Thompson (Shylock). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.



THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM DAVID LEE HUYNH (Lorenzo). Off-Broadway: NAATCO’s Henry VI (Drama Desk nomination,

Outstanding Revival), Gingold Theatrical Group’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Transport Group’s The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, Pan Asian Repertory’s No-No Boy, etc. Regional: Kennedy Center, Alley Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theatre, etc. Founding member of The Sõng Collective. TV/film: “Blue Bloods,” “FBI,” Solitary, Children of the Dust. MFA: University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program. davidleehuynh.com MAURICE JONES (Prince of Morocco/Duke/Tubal). Broadway: The Lifespan of a Fact, Saint Joan, The

Cherry Orchard, Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar. Off-Broadway/regional: Roundabout Theatre Company, Park Avenue Armory, Atlantic Theater Company, MTC, Public Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Folger Theatre, Two River Theatre, Barrington Stage, Denver Center, Shakespeare Theatre of NJ. Television: “Godfather of Harlem,” “Blue Bloods,” “Elementary,” “The Good Fight,” “30 Rock.” Film: The Winter’s Tale, Romeo & Juliet, And So It Goes. NATE MILLER (Lancelet Gobbo/Jailer) is an actor/producer and founding member of Lesser America

Theatre Co. He is a graduate of Marquette University and The Juilliard School. Broadway: JUNK at LCT Off-Broadway: India Pale Ale, Ripcord, Of Good Stock, Love and Information, Peter and The Starcatcher. Regional: Actors Theatre of Louisville, La Jolla, Playmakers, The Wilma, McCarter. Film: Either Side of Midnight, Another Kind. TV: “The Code,” “The Good Wife.” @iamnatemiller Isabel Arraiza (Portia) and Maurice Jones (Prince of Morocco). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


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Measure for Measure. Select theatre: Time and the Conways (Roundabout), Moscow x 6 (MCC), Red Dog Howls (NYTW), Drunken City (Playwrights Horizons), Tiny Beautiful Things (The Public), Microcrisis (MaYi). Select film/TV: Demolition, The Dark Tower, Like Sunday, Like Rain, Stage of Twilight, “Lisey’s Story,” “Monsterland,” “Dispatches From Elsewhere,” “New Amsterdam,” “Homeland,” “House of Cards,” “Manifest” and the upcoming Amazon series “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” alfredonarciso.com HAYNES THIGPEN (Gratiano). Broadway: Dead

Accounts, Misalliance. TFANA: An Octoroon, Measure for Measure. Off-Broadway: Our House, Patron Saint of Sea Monsters (Playwrights Horizons); Revenger’s Tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi (RedBull Theater). Regional: Girls (Yale Rep), August Osage County (The Globe), Aliens (San Francisco Playhouse). Film/TV: “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Billions,” “Horace and Pete,” Terror Firmer, “Elementary,” Crashing. JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON (Shylock). Broadway:

Jitney (Tony nomination), Carousel, A Time to Kill, Julius Caesar. Off-Broadway: The Father, A Doll’s House, Tamburlaine, Macbeth, Othello (Obie, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel and AUDELCO Awards) (TFANA); Julius Caesar (NYSF); The Iceman Cometh (Obie, Drama Desk Awards; BAM); Satchmo at the Waldorf (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, NAACP Award; Westside Theater); The Emperor Jones (Drama League, Drama Desk nominations; Irish Rep), Hedda Gabler (NYTW). Regional: The Tempest (Commonwealth Shakespeare); Man in the Ring (Elliot Norton Award; Huntington Theater); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Mark Taper Forum); Antony and Cleopatra (Hartford Stage); Red Velvet, Othello, Richard III (Shakespeare & Co.). Television: “The Gilded Age,” “Mare of Easttown,” “For Life.” Film: 355, Top: Alfredo Narciso (Antonio) and Haynes Thigpen The Letter Room, 21 Bridges, Let Them All Talk. (Gratiano). GRAHAM WINTON (Salerio). TFANA: Julius

Above: Graham Winton (Salerio). Photos by Gerry Goodstein.

Caesar, Don Juan, Pericles, Othello, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear. Broadway: The Ferryman, Cyrano de Bergerac, A Man For All Seasons, The Tempest, Two Shakespearean Actors. Off-Broadway: The Public, CSC, Roundabout, Lincoln Center. TV: “FBI,” “Bull,” “Elementary,” “The Americans,” “Public Morals,” “Veep,” “The Good Wife,” “Louie,” “The Blacklist,” “Blue Bloods,” all “Law & Order.” Film: Life Itself, My Sassy Girl, Gettysburg, Blonde Fist. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE



at TFANA, where she directed The Winter’s Tale, The Skin of Our Teeth (Obie), Strindberg’s The Father and Ibsen’s Doll’s House in rep, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Measure for Measure and Othello. She directed Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Tony nom for best revival) with Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon on Broadway. Arbus spent several years making theatre with prisoners in association with Rehabilitation Through the Arts and in 2018, she directed an adaptation of The Tempest in a refugee camp in Greece for The Campfire Project. RICCARDO HERNÁNDEZ (Scenic Designer).

Broadway: Jagged Little Pill (Tony Award nomination); Indecent; The Gin Game; The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; The People in the Picture; Caroline, or Change (National Theatre London); Elaine Stritch at Liberty (Old Vic); Topdog/Underdog (Royal Court); Bells Are Ringing; Parade (directed by Hal Prince; Tony, Drama Desk nominations); Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk; The Tempest. International: Théâtre du Châtelet, Avignon (Cour d’honneur Palais des Papes); Oslo, National Theatre; Abbey Theatre. Recipient, Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Design. Hern ndezis an associate professor and co-chair of the Yale School of Drama. EMILY REBHOLZ (Costume Designer).

Broadway: Jagged Little Pill (Tony nomination); Frankie and Johnny…; Getting the Band Back Together; Indecent; Oh, Hello On Broadway; If/ Then; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Select recent: Nantucket Sleigh Ride (LCT), Jagged Little Pill (A.R.T), The Low Road (The Public Theater; Henry Hewes Award, Lucille Lortel nomination), The Winter’s Tale (TFANA), Mary Jane (NYTW), Twelfth Night (CSC), Brigadoon (Encores!), The Robber Bridegroom (Roundabout), Lucia Top: Isabel Arraiza (Portia) and Jeff Biehl (Balthazar). Di Lammermoor and Don Giovanni (Santa Fe Above: Sanjit De Silva (Bassanio) and Alfredo Narciso (Antonio). Opera), Orfeo ed Euridice (Opera Theatre of St. Photos by Henry Grossman. Louis). MFA: Yale University.


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THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM MARCUS DOSHI (Lighting Designer) designs lighting and sets for theatre, opera and dance. His work

has been seen extensively in New York; Broadway credits include Linda Vista (2019) and Pass Over (2021). Chicago (Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Lyric Opera, others). Major regional theatres and opera companies in the USA; internationally in 18 countries across five continents. He is associate chair of department of theatre at Northwestern University, where he teaches design. Marcusdoshi.com

JUSTIN ELLINGTON (Original Music and Sound Designer) is an award-winning composer and sound

designer. Theatre for a New Audience credits include He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and The Winter’s Tale. Broadway credits include Pass Over, Clyde’s and Other Desert Cities. Off-Broadway credits include Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Playwrights Horizons); The Rolling Stone, Pass Over, Pipeline (Lincoln Center); Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie (ArsNova); The House That Will Not Stand, Fetch Clay Make Man (New York Theatre Workshop). JONATHAN KALB (Resident Dramaturg) is Professor of Theater at Hunter College, CUNY, and is

TFANA’s Resident Dramaturg. The author of five books on theater, he has worked for more than three decades as a theater scholar, critic, journalist, and dramaturg. He has twice won The George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. and has also won the George Freedley Award for an outstanding theater book from the Theatre Library Association. He often writes about theater on his TheaterMatters blog at www.jonathankalb.com. David Lee Huynh (Lorenzo) and Alfredo Narciso (Antonio). Photo by Gerry Goodstein.



THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM JAMES SHAPIRO (Consulting Scholar), Larry Miller Professor of English at Columbia University, is

author of the prizewinning Shakespeare and the Jews (1996); A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 (2005), Contested Will (2010), The Year of Lear (2015) and most recently Shakespeare in a Divided America (2020), selected one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times. He has been awarded Guggenheim, Cullman and NEH fellowships, has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves as a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. AYANNA THOMPSON (Consulting Scholar) is a regents professor of English at Arizona State

University, and the director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies (ACMRS). She is the author of many books, including most recently Blackface (Bloomsbury, 2021). In 2020, Thompson became a Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at The Public Theater. In 2021, she joined the boards of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Parks Arts Foundation and Play On Shakespeare. Previously, she served as the president of the Shakespeare Association of America. JERRY RAIK (Liturgical Consultant) is delighted to have this association with Theatre For a New

Audience and with this exceptional cast and team. His combination of love of theatre, extensive experience with Shakespeare and deep attachment to Judaism and its liturgy, positions him happily for this wonderful opportunity with The Merchant of Venice. John Douglas Thompson (Shylock) and Maurice Jones (Tubal). Photo by Henry Grossman.


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credits include A Doll’s House, The Father, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Winter’s Tale, About Alice, and Gnit (TFANA); Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Broadway), Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, Big Love, and Appropriate (Signature) and Peter and the Starcatcher (tour). Jon got his start in props at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University. TOMMY KURZMAN (Hair, Wig, and Makeup

Designer). Broadway (makeup): Mrs. Doubtfire, All My Sons, True West, St. Joan, My Fair Lady, Little Foxes, Long Day’s Journey…, Bright Star and Fiddler on the Roof. Off-Broadway: Little Shop of Horrors (wigs/makeup), Westside Theatre, MCC, The Atlantic, The New Group, The Public, MTC, NWS. Regional: The Muny, Geva Theatre, Resident Ensemble Players, Cape Playhouse, Sig. VA, MSM. Associate hair designer on over 15 Broadway productions. Builds wigs for numerous films and TV shows. IG: @TommyKurzmanWig ANDREW WADE (Voice Director). Broadway: Harry

Potter and the Cursed Child (U.S. head of voice and dialect), A Christmas Carol (with Matthew Warchus) and tour (voice and dialect director), King Lear with Glenda Jackson (voice coach), Matilda the Musical (director of voice) and national tour. West End: Lord of the Rings. The Public Theater: director of voice. Royal Shakespeare Company: head of voice. The Acting Company and Guthrie Theater: Julius Caesar. NYTW: Othello with Daniel Craig. Teaching: Juilliard, Stella Adler, NYU, BADA in Oxford. Film: Shakespeare in Love. Fellow: Rose Bruford College. Workshops and lectures: worldwide. BYRON EASLEY (Choreographer). Slave Play (Broadway

[Antonyo Award nomination] and NYTW), X: Or Betty Shabazz V. The Nation (Lucille Lortel Award nomination), The Bubbly Black Girl for City Center Encores, Langston in Harlem (SDC’s Joe A. Callaway Award and an Audelco Award. Regional: Gun & Powder (Signature Theatre); Matilda (Olney Theatre, Helen Hayes nomination); Twelfth Night (Yale Repertory Theatre); Unison, The Wiz, A Comedy of Errors (OSF); Five Guys Named Moe Top: Shirine Babb (Nerissa) and Haynes Thigpen (Gratiano). (Arena Stage, Helen Hayes nomination); Jelly’s Last Jam Above: Sanjit De Silva (Bassanio). (Suzi Bass Award), Sophisticated Ladies (Suzi Bass Award) Photos by Henry Grossman. (Alliance Theatre). Associate arts professor at NYU/Tisch. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE


THE PRODUCTION CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM SHANE SCHNETZLER (Production Stage Manager). TFANA: Soho Rep’s Fairview, Timon of Athens,

Julius Caesar, The Emperor, Heart/Box, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Tamburlaine, Fiasco’s Cymbeline. Off-Broadway: Seven Deadly Sins (Tectonic); Noura, This Flat Earth, The Profane, Rancho Viejo, Familiar (Playwrights Horizons); Napoli, Brooklyn, Look Back in Anger (Roundabout); The Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, The Comedy of Errors (NYSF); Detroit ’67 (Public); Night is a Room, The Liquid Plain, The Old Friends (Signature). R. CHRISTOPHER MAXWELL (Assistant Stage Manager) hails from the bustling southern metropolis

of Little Rock, Arkansas, and currently resides in Harlem, New York. During his early years, he earned a BA in theatre arts-dance and sociology from The University of Arkansas in Little Rock. He received a master’s of fine arts in stage management from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His work is made available by the love of his partner Don and his furry goblins. maxwellsmaart.com BLAKE ZIDELL & ASSOCIATES (Publicity) is a Brooklyn-based public relations firm representing artists,

companies and institutions spanning a variety of disciplines. Clients include St. Ann’s Warehouse, Soho Rep, The Kitchen, Ars Nova, BRIC, P.S.122, Abrons Arts Center, Taylor Mac, Labyrinth Theater Company, StoryCorps, Irish Arts Center, Caf Carlyle, Peak Performances, Batsheva Dance Company, The Playwrights Realm, Stephen Petronio Company, The Play Company and FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival. SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY Led by Artistic Director Simon Godwin and Executive Director

Chris Jennings, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is synonymous with artistic excellence. STC strives to make classical theatre more accessible to audiences in and around the nation’s capital by expanding the definition of “classic” to include playwrights previously excluded from the canon while renewing its commitment to high-quality, exhilarating, inclusive theatre. A leader in arts education, STC has a dynamic range of initiatives that teach and excite learners of all ages. Located in downtown Washington, D.C., STC performs in two theatres and also hosts presentations from outstanding local performing arts groups and nationally renowned organizations. Nate Miller (Lancelet Gobbo). Photo by Henry Grossman.


T H E AT R E F O R A N E W A U D I E N C E 360° S E R I E S



JEFFREY HOROWITZ (Founding Artistic Director) began his career in theatre as an actor and

appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theatre. In 1979, he founded Theatre for a New Audience. Horowitz has served on the panel of the New York State Council on the Arts, on the board of directors of Theatre Communications Group, the advisory board of the Shakespeare Society and the artistic directorate of London’s Globe Theatre. Awards: 2003 John Houseman Award from The Acting Company; 2004 Gaudium Award from Breukelein Institute; 2019 Obie Lifetime Achievement and TFANA's 2020 Samuel H. Scripps. DOROTHY RYAN (Managing Director) joined Theatre for a New Audience in 2003 after a ten-year

fundraising career with the 92nd Street Y and Brooklyn Museum. Ryan began her career in classical music artist management and also served as company manager and managing leader for several regional opera companies. She is a Brooklyn Women of Distinction honoree and serves as treasurer of the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance.

Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Photo © David Sundberg/Esto.

Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage. Photo by Francis Dzikowski/OTTO.



ABOUT THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE About Theatre for a New Audience Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, the mission of Theatre for a New Audience is to develop and vitalize the performance and study of Shakespeare and classic drama. Theatre for a New Audience produces for audiences Off-Broadway and has also toured nationally, internationally and to Broadway. We are guided in our work by five core values: a reverence for language, a spirit of adventure, a commitment to diversity, a dedication to learning, and a spirit of service. These values inform what we do with artists, how we interact with audiences, and how we manage our organization. Theatre for a New Audience Education Programs


Founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz Managing Director Dorothy Ryan General Manager Christa Bean Director of Institutional Advancement James J. Lynes Finance Director Mary Sormeley Education Director Lindsay Tanner Capital Campaign Director George Brennan Director of Marketing & Communications Edward Carlson Company Manager Molly Burdick Theatre Manager Steven Gaultney Facilities Director Rashawn Caldwell Production Manager Brett Anders Box Office Manager Allison Byrum Institutional & Individual Support Manager Sara Billeaux Membership & Special Events Coordinator Nöel Dudley Artistic Associate Peter J. Cook Finance Associate Harmony Fiori Development Associate Jake Larimer Development Associate Olivia Laskin Education Associate Dylan Gurrera House Managers Jonatan Amaya, Nyala Hall Press Representative Blake Zidell & Associates Resident Dramaturg Jonathan Kalb Resident Casting Director Jack Doulin

Theatre for a New Audience is an award-winning company recognized for artistic excellence. Our education programs introduce students to Shakespeare and other classics with the same artistic integrity that we apply to our productions. Through our unique and exciting methodology, students engage in hands-on learning that involves all aspects of literacy set in the context of theatre education. Our residencies are structured to address City and State Learning Standards both in English Language Arts and the Arts, the New York City DOE’s Curriculum Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Theater, and the New York State Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts. Begun in 1984, our programs have served more than 135,000 students, ages 9 through 18, in New York City Public Schools city-wide. A Home in Brooklyn: Polonsky Shakespeare Center Theatre for a New Audience’s home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, is a centerpiece of the Brooklyn Cultural District. Designed by celebrated architect Hugh Hardy, Polonsky Shakespeare Center is the first theatre in New York designed and built expressly for classic drama since Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont in the 1960s. The 27,500 square-foot facility is a unique performance space in New York. The 299-seat Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage, inspired by the Cottesloe at London’s National Theatre, combines an Elizabethan courtyard theatre with modern theatre technology that allows the stage and seating to be arranged in seven configurations. The facility also includes the Theodore C. Rogers Studio (a 50-seat rehearsal/ performance studio), and theatrical support spaces. The City of New York-developed Arts Plaza, designed by landscape architect Ken Smith, creates a natural gathering place around the building. In addition, Polonsky Shakespeare Center is also one of the few sustainable (green) theatre in the country, with LEED-NC Silver rating from the United States Green Building Council. Now with a home of its own, Theatre for a New Audience is contributing to the continued renaissance of Downtown Brooklyn. In addition to its season of plays, the Theatre has expanded its Humanities offerings to include lectures, seminars, workshops, and other activities for artists, scholars, and the general public. When not in use by the Theatre, its new facility is available for rental, bringing much needed affordable performing and rehearsal space to the community.


T H E AT R E F O R A N E W A U D I E N C E 360° S E R I E S


Board Chair Robert E. Buckholz Vice Chair Kathleen C. Walsh President Jeffrey Horowitz Founding Artistic Director Vice President and Secretary Dorothy Ryan Managing Director Executive Committee Robert E. Buckholz Constance Christensen Jeffrey Horowitz Seymour H. Lesser Larry M. Loeb Audrey Heffernan Meyer Philip R. Rotner Kathleen C. Walsh Josh Weisberg Members F. Murray Abraham* Arin Arbus* Alan Beller John Berendt* Bianca Vivion Brooks* Ben Campbell Robert Caro* Sharon Dunn* Riccardo Hernandez* Kathryn Hunter* Dana Ivey* Tom Kirdahy* Harry J. Lennix* Catherine Maciariello* Marc Polonsky Joseph Samulski* Daryl D. Smith Susan Stockel Michael Stranahan John Douglas Thompson* John Turturro* Frederick Wiseman* *Artistic Council

Emeritus Francine Ballan Sally Brody William H. Burgess III Dr. Charlotte K. Frank Caroline Niemczyk Janet C. Olshansky Theodore C. Rogers Mark Rylance* Monica G.S. Wambold Jane Wells



Even with capacity audiences, ticket sales account for a small portion of our operating costs. The Theatre expresses its deepest thanks to the following Foundations, Corporations, Government Agencies and Individuals for their generous support of the Theatre’s Humanities, Education, and Outreach programs. The 360° Series: Viewfinders has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this Viewfinder, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A Challenge Grant from the NEH established a Humanities endowment fund at Theatre for a New Audience to support these programs in perpetuity. Leading matching gifts to the NEH grant were provided by Joan and Robert Arnow, Norman and Elaine Brodsky, The Durst Organization, Perry and Marty Granoff, Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, John J. Kerr & Nora Wren Kerr, Litowitz Foundation, Inc., Robert and Wendy MacDonald, Sandy and Stephen Perlbinder, The Prospect Hill Foundation, Inc., Theodore C. Rogers, and from purchasers in the Theatre’s Seat for Shakespeare Campaign, 2013 – 2015. Theatre for a New Audience’s Humanities, Education, and Outreach programs are supported, in part, by The Elayne P. Bernstein Education Fund. For more information on naming a seat or making a gift to the Humanities endowments, please contact James Lynes, Director of Institutional Advancement, at 212-229-2819 x29, or by email at jlynes@tfana.org.

Deloitte and Bloomberg Philanthropies are the 2021-2022 Season Sponsors. Theatre for a New Audience’s productions and education programs are made possible, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Endowment for the Arts; Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Additional funding is provided by the generosity of the following Foundations and Corporations through either general operating support or direct support of the Theatre’s arts in education programs: PRINCIPAL BENEFACTORS

($100,000 and up) JL Greene Arts Access Fund in the New York Community Trust The Hearst Foundations New York Community Trust The SHS Foundation The Shubert Foundation, Inc. The Thompson Family Foundation, Inc. U.S. Small Business Administration LEADING BENEFACTORS

($50,000 and up) The Arnow Family Fund Bloomberg Philanthropies Charina Endowment Fund Deloitte & Touche LLP The Howard Gilman Foundation The Polonsky Foundation MAJOR BENEFACTORS

($20,000 and up) The Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation Booth Ferris Foundation

The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation The Hearst Corporation The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP Latham & Watkins LLP The Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation The Stockel Family Foundation The White Cedar Fund Whiting Foundation SUSTAINING BENEFACTORS

($10,000 and up) Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP The Howard Bayne Fund Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Sidney E. Frank Foundation

The Claire Friedlander Family Foundation Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti, LLP The J.M. Kaplan Fund McDermott Will & Emery Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison May and Samuel Rudin Foundation Inc. Select Equity Group, Inc. Sidley Austin LLP The Speyer Family Foundation The Starry Night Fund Michael Tuch Foundation, Inc. PRODUCERS CIRCLE— ARTISTIC DIRECTOR’S SOCIETY

($5,000 and up) Axe-Houghton Foundation Geen Family Foundation JKW Foundation King & Spalding LLP Litowitz Foundation, Inc.

Lucille Lortel Foundation Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College Richenthal Foundation PRODUCERS CIRCLE—EXECUTIVE

($2,500 and up) Elizabeth and Russell Abbott Foley Hoag LLP Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP Irving Harris Foundation Kirkland & Ellis LLP Marta Heflin Foundation Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP The Randolph Foundation Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund The Venable Foundation


($1,000 and up) Actors’ Equity Association The Grace R. and Alan D. Marcus Foundation International Business Machines Stacy Schiff and Marc de la Bruyere



W W W . T FA N A . O R G

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