STAGE TUBE: Behind the Scenes with First Folio's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

First Folio Theatre, known for bringing high quality performances of Shakespeare and other classics to the Chicagoland suburbs, closes its landmark 15th season with William Shakespeare's most controversial play, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Artistic Director Alison C. Vesely directs the classic for First Folio's beloved annual Shakespeare-under-the-Stars production on the outdoor main stage situated on the scenic slopes of the historic estate.

A complex tale of hatred, love, revenge, and betrayal, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE opened on Saturday, July 14, and runs through August 19, 2012. Click below to watch video interviews with the cast about their inspirations, favorite scenes and more!

A Venetian merchant named Antonio (Michael Joseph Mitchell), willing to sacrifice anything for the budding romance of his dear friend Bassanio (Kevin McKillip), agrees to offer a pound of his own flesh as collateral in a deal with Shylock (Michael Goldberg), a Jewish moneylender and also his bitter rival. When Shylock demands the gruesome payment, it falls to Bassino's lover, a young heiress named Portia (Melanie Keller), disguised as a male lawyer, to save Antonio from the consequences of his anti-Semitism. Set in 16th century Venice, the Bard's dark tale challenges prejudices and fears about religion, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. A mesmerizing drama ahead of its time, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is as timeless as it is true to today's society.

The cast of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE also features Gary F. Barth as “Salerio,” Luke Daigle as “Lorenzo,” Michael Mercier as “Salanio,” Kris Reilly as “Gratiano,” Hayley L. Rice as “Nerissa,” René Ruelas as “Duke”/“Tubal,” Nate Santana as “Lancelot,” and Cassidy Stirtz as “Jessica.” The ensemble includes Robbie Bersano, Stephan Collins-Stepney, Lane Flores, Michael Holding, Whitney Morse, Batuhan Ozturk, and Emma Thatcher.

The artistic team includes Ann Davis (Scenic Artist), Stanton Davis (Vocal Coach), Kyle Kevin Gettelman (Technical Director), Christopher Kriz (Sound Designer), Rachel Lambert (Costume Designer), Michael McNamara (Lighting Designer), Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Designer), and Kayla Straub (Properties Artisan).

To further examine these themes, First Folio will also present a special fully staged reading of SHYLOCK AND HIS DAUGHTER by Maurice Schwartz. Originally written for the Yiddish theater and translated into English, this play tells the same story as THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, but from Shylock's perspective, turning the tale on its head in more than one way. The production will use the same actors as the main stage production of MERCHANT, with the actors playing the same roles. Tickets to the special performances are only $10 and the production will be held on Thursdays, continuing August 2, 9, and 16 at 8:15 p.m.

All performances take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, which is owned and operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Situated on the lawn next to the Portiuncula Chapel, First Folio’s outdoor mainstage is the perfect venue for Shakespeare under the stars. Located at 1717 W 31st St., just off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook.

For tickets, scheduling and further information about THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, visit

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