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John Douglas Thompson and Arin Arbus Reunite for Virtual Exploration of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Theatre for a New Audience will present the virtual events on Wednesday, January 27, 7-8pm, and Saturday, January 30, 3-4pm.

John Douglas Thompson and Arin Arbus Reunite for Virtual Exploration of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Over the last decade, actor John Douglas Thompson and director Arin Arbus have collaborated on several acclaimed productions for Theatre for a New Audience, including Shakespeare's Othello (2009) and Macbeth (2011), and Ibsen's A Doll's House and Strindberg's The Father in rotating repertory (2016). TFANA will present a virtual exploration of these celebrated artists' next project together, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, this Wednesday, January 27, 7-8pm, and Saturday, January 30, 3-4pm, as part of the Theatre's new "Artists & Community" series. The readings, offered free of charge on Zoom, conclude with talkbacks with the artists, moderated by TFANA's Founding Artistic Director, Jeffrey Horowitz. Reservations are required and can be made here.

The Merchant of Venice has provoked controversy for centuries: Is it an anti-Semitic work and Shylock a wicked, toxic monster; or a multi-faceted play about prejudice and hatred in which Shylock and all the characters are human, complex, and flawed? As Stephen Greenblatt, the esteemed Shakespearean, historian, and author, wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2010: "There is no internal evidence in the text of Shakespeare's play that indicates how Shylock is meant to look. That he could therefore have closely resembled the Christian Antonio is... a potential meaning of Portia's courtroom question: 'Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?' (The line could alternatively, of course, be meant to elicit a laugh or to suggest that before the law, all parties are equal, no matter how different they appear to be.)"

In the exploration this week, a diverse company of actors grapples with the play and looks at five scenes from four acts over two days: Act I, Scene III; Act II, Scenes III & V; and Act III, Scene I on January 27; and Act IV, Scene I: The Trial, on January 30. The company includes Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Liassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, Graham Winton, and

John Douglas Thompson as Shylock.

These readings share the company's first steps in their journey toward a full production by TFANA when theaters reopen.

Jeffrey Horowitz says, "On January 9, the Royal Shakespeare Company, with TFANA and The Young Vic, co-presented a live-streamed concert that began an investigation into the 1939 Broadway musical Swingin' the Dream. I'm thrilled that TFANA will now offer another first look: a behind the scenes exploration of Shakespeare's provocative, polarizing play The Merchant of Venice, as part of our Artists & Community Series, under the auspices of the Merle Debuskey Studio Program (Nidia Media, Director). John Douglas Thompson, as Shylock, leads a brilliant cast directed by Arin Arbus. It's the first Merchant produced by TFANA since Darko Tresnjak's staging, featuring F. Murray Abraham, in 2007 and 2011."

Artists & Community, a new TFANA series, explores vital connections between the theatre and our world. Artists & Community projects embrace a spirit of inquiry and discovery and will take varying forms, from livestreams to podcasts. All artists and other participants are compensated. The Series includes plays and sections of plays by Shakespeare and a range of diverse authors and composers complemented by post-performance discussions.

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