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Cast Announced For Rasaka and Vitalist's MERCHANT ON VENICE

Cast Announced For Rasaka and Vitalist's MERCHANT ON VENICE

Casting has been completed for Rasaka and Vitalist's remounting of MERCHANT ON VENICE, Shishir Kurup's raucous South Asian re-imagining of Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, to be directed by Liz Carlin Metz.

Four of the original artists from the play's world premiere, originally produced by Silk Road Rising in 2007, will return for this Rasaka and Vitalist remount. Anish Jethmalani will reprise his role of the Muslim money-lender, Sharuk (Kurup's surrogate for Shakespeare's Shylock). Jethmalani is a founding member of Rasaka Theatre and associate artist at Timeline Theatre, where he appeared in IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY, A DISAPPEARING NUMBER, INANA, and BLOOD AND GIFTS. He is currently appearing in HATFIELD & MCCOY at House Theatre and has performed in productions for many of Chicago's leading non-profit theaters, including Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Court, Victory Gardens, Lookingglass, Writers among others.

Three other veterans of the 2007 production will return to take on new roles. Rasaka's Producing Artistic Director Kamal Hans will play Jitender, a Hindu actor who has fled Bollywood stardom to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. Hans has also performed with Victory Gardens, Stage Left Theatre, UrbanTheater, and Polarity Ensemble Theatre. Madrid St. Angelo will play Devender, Jitender's best friend. St. Angelo has worked with Steppenwolf, Goodman, Victory Gardens, Writers Theatre, Silk Road Rising, 16th St. Theatre, Vitalist Theatre, and UrbanTheater Company. Rasaka Associate Artistic Director Alka Nayyar will play Kavita and, as she did for the 2007 production, serve as choreographer. Nayyar' s previous credits include THE JUNGLE BOOK (Goodman Theatre, Huntington Theatre); THE SECRET GARDEN (Court Theatre); A DISAPPEARING NUMBER (TimeLine Theatre); THE MASRAYANA (Jeff-nominated choreography), A WIDOW OF NO IMPORTANCE, A NICE INDIAN BOY (Rasaka Theatre); GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Remy Bumppo and Silk Road Rising); and the original MERCHANT ON VENICE (Silk Road Rising).

Joining the four veterans of the 2007 cast will be Suzan Faycurry as Pushpa, the wealthy object of Jitender's affection. Faycurry was seen in A NICE INDIAN BOY with Rasaka and recently appeared in THREESOME for The Other Theatre Company.

The MERCHANT ON VENICE ensemble cast also includes Sunny Anam, Simran Bal, Anand Bhatt, Luisa Blanco, David Fink, Dennis Garcia, Murtaza Kapasi, Siddhartha Rajan, Priyank Thakkar, and Ben Veatch. The production team features Craig Choma (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Rich Norwood (lighting designer), Tracee Bear (assistant costume designer), Gregor Mortis (sound designer), Alka Nayyar (choreographer), Bailey Howard (stage manager), Emily Antoff (assistant director/assistant producer), Kathleen Dickinson (production manager), and Kevin Scott (technical director).

A tragi-comic, raucous, dark and irreverent work, Kurup's play is set on Venice Boulevard in present day Culver City, California - a section of the Los Angeles area where hatred and intolerance among Hindus and Muslims has grown to a boiling point. With rock-and-roll and Bollywood-influenced music, blank verse and present-day pop references -- replete with Indian, American, and Latino jargon that reflect the sound of the South Asian Diaspora, as well as the polyglot crackle of Los Angeles -- the play explores how the preponderance of power in one sector of a community can marginalize a minority and provoke reactionary and retributive responses.


Liz Carlin-Metz (Director, Vitalist Theatre Co-Founder/Artistic Director/Director/Teaching Artist) For Vitalist Theatre: MULTITUDES (USA premiere with Rasaka Theatre), LIFE IS A DREAM (Jeff Nominated), THE NIGHT SEASON (Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actress), MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN (3 After Dark Awards including Best Direction), A PASSAGE TO INDIA (Jeff Nominated; After Dark Award for All Around Technical Direction), ANUNG'S FIRST AMERICAN CHRISTMAS (World Premiere), THE THREE LIVES OF LUCIE CABROL, THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, KING LEAR, and ANNA KARENINA. She also served as an assistant director at the Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) and Directing Associate at California Shakespeare Festival where she directed AS YOU LIKE IT. Other directing credits include THE SKRIKER, THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE, ROMEO AND JULIET, PYGMALION, MACBETH, WOMAN IN MIND, IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY, ON THE VERGE, A LIE OF THE MIND, TARTUFFE, Neil Gaiman'S NEVERWHERE, and her own adaptations of HENRY IV PARTS 1 & 2. She served as a voice director at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Tacoma Actor's Guild, Steppenwolf (Chicago and Off-Broadway), and Williamstown Theatre Festival (MA), where she also administered the Apprentice Program and directed Shakespeare and Moliere with the Act One Company. Liz has served on the Illinois Arts Council Theatre Panel, is a member of the boards for International Voices Project and Working Title Playwrights, and is published on the topic of the neuroscience of performance. She holds an MFA from Temple University and is The Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre at Knox College.

Shishir Kurup (Playwright) is an actor/writer/director/composer born in Bombay, India and raised in Kenya and the U.S. His one-man shows ASSIMILATION and EXILE: RUMINATIONS ON A RELUCTANT MARTYR have been seen in countless cities and universities nationally and internationally including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Austin, London, and Manchester, England. His solo performance piece SHARIF DON'T LIKE IT examines the fallout from the USA Patriot Act and the disappearance of over two thousand South Asian and Arab Muslims and played in October '09 at the National Asian American Theatre Festival in NYC. Shishir is a long-time ensemble member of the nationally renowned Cornerstone Theater Company (Los Angeles). He is a California Arts Council Grant and Kennedy Center: Roger. L. Stevens Award recipient for MERCHANT ON VENICE.

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