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Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice comes to Mabery Pavilion

Originally Published: September 28, 2019 7:04 p.m.

Enjoy classic live theatre in an open-air venue at the perfect time of year.

Yavapai College presents William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at Mabery Pavilion, located in the heart of YC’s Verde Valley Campus in Clarkdale, Saturday Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Performed by Laark Productions, The Merchant of Venice touches upon themes pertinent to today’s audiences: religious intolerance, wealth disparity, parental disappointment, courtroom justice, and, of course, love.

Not as farcical as some of Shakespeare’s better-known comedies, the play intersperses light-hearted, romantic scenes with religious bigotry and greed.

“Laark Productions stays true to the original text while cutting the length of the play and presenting it in a timeless style that accentuates the continued relevance for modern audiences.”

Director of the play, Karla Burkett, shared some behind-the-scenes thoughts about the performance.

“As we began producing The Merchant of Venice, it wasn’t long before we heard the obvious question: ‘How are you going to handle the anti-Semitism?’ However, it wasn’t only anti-Semitism that could potentially offend audiences, “Racial and religious epithets and stereotypes pepper the dialogue. Classism, ageism and sexism run through the several plots. Racism and ducats are the twin currencies of the play and the playwright doesn’t give us a clear moral compass to steer by.”

Burkett also described the discrepancy between how characters are regarded and how they behave. “The Merchant, Antonio, is a popular figure with his Venetian peers. His friends speak unanimously of his love, goodness and generosity, but he simultaneously sets the standard of aggressive treatment of ‘aliens’ in his home city. Portia is remembered most notoriously for the ‘quality of mercy’ speech, but her behavior falls well short of merciful when she treats her multinational suitors with contempt.”

Even with the uncomfortable themes and politically incorrect language, Burkett believes that the play will give audiences a chance for self-reflection. She says, “The brilliant thing about performing Shakespeare is that the depth of the writing allows you a depth of interpretation. We will perform The Merchant of Venice with all its rampant anti-Semitism, racism, and materialism, but in doing so we will explore the conflicts in each character and bring them to the stage with energy and humor. Hopefully we will all go home smiling and having conversations.”

The Merchant of Venice will be performed in Mabery Pavilion on the Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The performance is free to the public. Seats are first-come, first-served. The YC Verde Valley Campus is located at 601 Black Hills Drive, Clarkdale, AZ 86324. For further information, please call Helen Stephenson (928) 649-4284.