Home stage is set for Shylock


The Merchant of Venice is to be performed in its original setting, the Venice ghetto, 500 years after the Jewish enclave was established.

William Shakespeare's play contains perhaps the most famous fictional portrayal of a Jew, in the shape of money-lending antagonist Shylock.

British postgraduate Davina Moss will act as a dramaturg for the production, which will also include a mock trial led by US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ms Moss, a 24-year-old from north London who studies at Yale School of Drama, said she was "thrilled" to be involved in putting together the special production.

The cast will also include Emmy award-winning House of Cards actor Reg Cathey. He will play the lead character, Antonio.

Ms Moss said: "The director, Karin Coonrod, teaches at the graduate school I attend. She got in touch with me pretty much out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to be involved, and who could say no to such a project?"

Her role, she said, was "helping the cast and creative team to understand the play more deeply".

The five performances in July will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

To work on the play as a Jew is "always significant," Ms Moss said, as "you're playing with the fire of a text that has been used against your people for hundreds of years".

She added: "To bring Shylock home to the place where he would have been imprisoned brings a new meaning to a character who has sometimes been vilified - often rightly - by history.

"It helps the audience to consider the realities of his life and why he might have made the choices he does. He was penned up by the Christians; no wonder he hates them."

The production will use up to five actors to play Shylock in each performance, which Ms Moss said would "reflect the multiplicity of Jewish experiences.

"Watching as a Jewish person, thinking about how cultural stereotypes have shaped so much of my life, is pretty exciting."

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