The Merchant of Venice in The Ghetto

26 Jul 2016

In 2016 the stars will align. It is the year of an extraordinary intersection, the 500th anniversary of the formation of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice and the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

With these words a unique performance is introduced - the joint effort of Compagnia de’ Colombari and Ca’Foscari University, and set to stage in the midst of the newly revitilized (yet original) Venice Jewish Ghetto.

Directed by Karin Coonrod, a world-renowned theater artist and founding director of Compagnia de’ Colombari, this performance of The Merchant of Venice also prides itself in a stellar cast and crew, as well as a series of accompanying events. Next to an international Summer school on Shakespeare, the most notable of these is certainly the mock trial held on the 27th of July, and presided by United States Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Shylock, Antonio, Portia will be represented by famous international lawyers. The legal implications of a famously controversial play will be unfolded in a ‘show within a show’

According to Coonrod,

It is a remarkable thing to create the mise en scène for Shakespeare’s incendiary play in the Venice Ghetto. By placing the play in the Ghetto, we are forcing the dramatic confrontation between play and place and time and the other. The audience will watch the play while feeling the memory of the Ghetto.

If you cannot make it to Venice for the five performances, don't despair. According to the organisers, the event will be recorded. Additionally, Shaul Bassi, director of Beit Venezia: A Home for Jewish Culture and one of the organisers of the Venice Ghetto 500 events, the material compiled will be prepared for educational use. In an interview for Jewish Renaissance, Bassi explained:

We’re going to turn all the artistic material, the outcomes of both the trial and the production into educational material. The main goal for dissemination of the project will become a resource for people interested in the play that we’ve called the Shylock Encyclopedia. It will be online and the idea is that it’s really accessible to everybody and maybe it will also be a sort of open encyclopedia that one can add posts to. We want to put everything at the disposal of students, scholars, actors and directors, whoever wants to deal with this most controversial of plays for years to come.

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