Dear Chris (and THEATREWORKS fans)-
Well, here we go! Another exciting summer of Shakespeare. TW Artistic Director, Murray Ross will be directing our production of MERCHANT OF VENICE. I am following the rehearsal process as a "friend of the production" and conducting many interviews for an article that I am working on about representations of Shylock in 2011. MERCHANT seems to be quite popular in the United States these days. Oskar produced a version on Broadway last fall starring Al Pacino and Theatre for a New Audience did one in the winter. There is another coming up this fall in San Francisco.
While talking to Oskar about the Broadway version, I was compelled by his assertion that he received very few letters of protest. Thats odd, I thought. MERCHANT OF VENICE, though one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, is fraught with controversy. Shylock (the part that Christopher is playing) falls into almost every bad stereotype of the Jewish money lender. Shakespeare's audiences would have laughed at him. We generally watch with a mixture of awkward amusement and horror. But the NYC version was protest-free? Why is that? Does it say something about New York audiences and their acceptance for this play? Does it say something about the directorial choices? (I will ask Broadway director, Dan Sullivan, next week when I meet him for an interview. I will report back to all of you)
SO CHRIS- to get us started... Could you tell us a bit about how you came to this part? Have you always wanted to play this classic Shakespearian role? What are your reservations as you prepare for this part? How DOES an actor prepare for such a controversial part?
Those are some general questions to begin what we hope will be a summer-long dialogue between me and Chris (I hope Murray will chime in from time to time). All of this leads up to the opening of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE in early August. I cant wait. It is a wonderful play.
Best to all,
Kevin Landis, Ph.D.
Director- Theatre Program
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs