The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

‘The Merchant of Venice’ premieres Friday; Behind the scenes of City Theatre’s newest production

Cast members of The Merchant of Venice. The production is being performed at City Theatre April 20 – May 13, 2018 Photo courtesy of City Theatre

Margo Alexander
Staff Reporter
[email protected]

The controversial Shakespeare play, ”The Merchant of Venice,” opens Friday at the Art Court Theatre in the Performing Arts Center, with a bit of a makeover to lure contemporary audiences.

Directing the play is a lifelong Shakespeare scholar, Professor Adrienne Sher, who says the play was selected for its controversy.

“We were interested in doing something topical, that reflected what was going on politically in the country right now,” says Sher.

They came to choose The Merchant of Venice because its racist overtones resonate with tensions today. Sher says she hopes that the production will make the audience conscious about their treatment of others.

“I hope they will think about how we treat people that are different from us,” says Sher.

Now an adjunct professor at City College, Sher got her first taste of the bard as a preteen. It all started at a movie theatre.

“As a pre-teen I went to see Franco Zefirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and I immediately got hooked on Shakespeare,” says Sher.

Decades of study, acting and a double degree at Stanford in theatre and English literature followed.

Jes Gonzales, the actor who plays the notorious Shylock, says he’s interpreting the role with nuance.  

“What Adrienne is doing, is giving us a much more sympathetic Shylock than you normally get,” says Gonzales. “We are portraying him in this show as a person with a sense of social justice, and a person who understands the dynamics of racism, and how it’s been endemic in Western society for hundreds or even thousands of years.”

Gonzales says he doesn’t see Shylock as a typical villain.

“Shakespeare couldn’t do one-dimensional people,” says Gonzales. “He does his best to make him sympathetic, and in this production, there’s a lot less anger, there’s a lot more confidence in the character. That’s been challenging for me. I mean, Shylock’s always been on my bucket list, but he’s also somebody that you really do have to be aware of what you’re doing.”

The director, Sher, says she came up with some ideas about modifying the play for modern times.

“I love Shakespeare, but I want people to be turned on by Shakespeare, and not be bored,” says Sher. “I have done my own adaptation. I have updated some of the language. We are doing it in modern day Venice Beach, and Belmont CA.”

Sher says the Venice scenes won’t have any gondolas. Rather, they are going to have skateboarders and roller-skaters, graffiti, street art and purple hair. The Belmont scenes will be more new-age with less racial tension, less color and clash. The whole production is designed by student designers, complete with boombox sounds coming from speakers under the seats.

Sound Designer Matt McCracken is one of the dozens of people behind the scenes, in addition to the huge cast.
browse around my web-site viagra prices canada After that the doctor can take appropriate steps to overcome this problem. Once the medicine has been prescribed, it is advised to cialis buy india complete the dose, unless side effects occur, which will be discussed later. Blood in viagra cialis Your Urine In a higher level, we could focus on the seven chakras. To avoid falling into poor postural habits while teaching, levitra australia practice correct posture.
“The sound designer is responsible for picking transition music, intermission, pre-show and post-show music. He helps interpret the script and the setting to take the audience into the play,” says McCracken.

McCracken says his favorite part of sound design is overcoming challenges.

“There’s a lot of problem solving involved,” says MacCracken. “I have fun with that, it’s like a puzzle. For example, for this play, I need eight speakers, so I have to figure out how to get the signal from the computer to the board and then out to all the speakers. But I pretty much have full freedom on the choice of music.”

Down the hall in the wardrobe room, the production’s costume designer, Hunter Farnbach, says he enjoys the process of choosing costumes for each character.

“There is something about taking this two-dimensional medium and then wrapping it in a three-dimensional way that just makes sense to me,” says Farnbach.

Farnbach says he loves playing with color and silhouette, and gets really excited about what he is going to put on the actor.  

“The other day, I was in a thrift shop and found this perfect shirt for the character of Lancelot,” says Farnbach. “He quits his job working for Shylock, and goes and works for Bassanio. And he is constantly eating. And there is food all over the shirt, and his outer shirt says ‘I hate my job.’ There is just this really wonderful collaborative aspect with the actors.”

The person that makes that intricate collaboration happen at the most basic level is the stage manager, AnaPaul Prince. At 21, Prince is already a seasoned stage manager.

“My favorite aspect of being a stage manager is when the shows start and you get to ‘call’ it, that is the main duty,” says Prince. “I tell the actors when to go on, and give them all the cues, and something about that is really nice because it comes down to timing. It’s funny how so many of the right cues, I just have to feel for the right moment. A lot of cues are based on what’s going on in the scene, the emotions, but when it comes to me, I just really feel like I am part of this magic.”

Ceci Walsh, an 18-year-old lighting designer, is responsible for creating the lighting that will showcase the actors in just the proper light.

“The lighting designer makes sure that everyone is seen, which is more difficult than it sounds. Especially with thrust staging, where there are people on three sides. It’s important that you have lights coming from all different directions, so that no matter where people sit, they are all seeing close to the same picture. So the goal is to create not only a practical look, but a look that can influence the mood and the tone of the piece,” says Walsh. “For example, the direction of the light coming in very steep, and with a long shadow, can create a very wistful look that can emphasize the pain that a character feels.”

Harry Stoner, a seasoned Shakespeare actor who plays Antonio, says his biggest challenge is the hours.

“The hardest thing about taking on this role is carving out the time,” says Stoner.

Stoner, 60, commutes from Stockton to City College for rehearsal while working as a high school teacher.

Playing Lorenzo, Dafydd Wynne says that his character will appeal to younger audiences.

“I think most young adults around my age are going to like my character,” says Wynne. “He is promoting progressiveness and tolerance. After all, he does marry a Jew’s daughter.”

The Merchant of Venice is playing until May 13, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center’s Art Court Theatre. For ticket information visit

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Express

Your donation will support the student journalists of Sacramento City College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Express

Comments (0)

All The Express Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *