First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83), known for bringinghigh quality performances of Shakespeare and other classics to the Chicagoland suburbs, will close its landmark 15th season with William Shakespeare's most controversial play, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Artistic Director Alison C. Vesely will direct 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 dramatic destination that not only delivers outstanding theater to its audience, First Folio Theatre invites Chicagoans to spread out their picnic blankets, kick off their shoes, and soak up some Shakespeare against a picture perfect backdrop. A complex tale of hatred, love, revenge, and betrayal, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE will preview on July 11, open on July 16 and run through August 19.
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 will be held on Thursdays July 26, 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 lovely Portiuncula Chapel, First Folio’s outdoor mainstage is the perfect venue for Shakespeare under the stars. The gates open at 6:45 p.m., giving audience members plenty of time to enjoy a picnic before the 8:15 p.m. start time. Featuring unlimited lawn seating, attendees are invited to bring their own chairs or blankets, or rent one for $2 each at the concession stand. Not only will audiences see some of the best Chicago-area actors on stage, they may also catch sight of local wildlife, such as hawks, owls, deer, swifts and foxes. Biweekly mosquito abatement is conducted to ensure comfort, and free repellent is offered at the site. Concessions as well as pre-ordered box suppers from La Cuisine (prepaid 48 hours in advance) are also available. Located at 1717 W 31st St., just off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook, First Folio is easy to get to from either the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds.