By Michael Foster-Sanders/campus editor

The NE Campus theater program will present the William Shakespeare classic The Merchant of Venice Feb. 28-March 3.

Director Stephen Thomas chose the dark comedy because it’s never been performed at the campus theater and he wants to teach students how to perform Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare plays are hard to do because essentially the students are learning a new language, which is poetry because Shakespeare plays are written in poetry and performed in poetry,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s all about student success.”

The play is widely admired for its moving passages but has also been vilified by some critics who say it is an anti-Semitic work, at least by today’s standards.

The controversy stems from the role of Shylock, a Jewish money lender who provides a loan to Antonio on the condition that he get to cut off a pound of flesh if Antonio defaults.
NE student Michael DuPuy plays Shylock and wants to let the audience know before they see the play that it might be hard to digest due to the nature of the world and the anti-Semitic language. Shylock is repeatedly referred to as the devil, an “inhuman wrench” and a “dog Jew.”

Austin Peake, who plays Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice, prepares for his role. Bassanio is a young lover who asks Antonio for money, driving Antonio to Shylock.
Austin Peake, who plays Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice, prepares for his role. Bassanio is a young lover who asks Antonio for money, driving Antonio to Shylock. Photo by Lacey Phillips/The Collegian

“The one thing to know is the play is a product of its times, times where slavery and racism wasn’t questioned, and that’s a part of the play,” he said. “But if you can put that to the side and recognize the craft apart from the outdated, archaic views, you will get a lot out of the play.”

NE student Ariana Stephens, who plays the heiress Portia, thinks women who watch the play will see a lot of themselves in her character.

“I fell in love with Portia after reading the script because she’s so intelligent, witty and independent, because she embodies everything that women should strive to be or want to be,” she said.

Stephens also hopes after watching the play that people will have a new mindset about the playwright.

“It’s a lot of comedy and heart in the play,” she said. “Also, I hope the audience can relax and find a new appreciation for Shakespeare.”

The play runs Feb. 28-March 3 in the NFAB theater with 7 p.m. performances and a 2 p.m. matinee March 3. Admission is free for TCC students, faculty and staff, $3 for non-TCC students and senior citizens, and $6 for the general public.