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The Bard & his plays hit campus this week

Claire Stephens | Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One of Shakespeare’s many famous plays, the provocative comedy “The Merchant of Venice,” comes to life on Notre Dame’s campus at the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival.

“The Merchant of Venice” follows Venetian merchant Bassanio on his quest for the hand of Portia, a wealthy heiress. When plans go awry and money problems surface, betrayal and blind anger face off against a cry for compassion and a clever young lawyer in disguise. Known for its controversial anti-Semitic themes, the play also deals with the power of love and a search for acceptance.

The impressive acting, tremendous set, breathtaking scenery and colorful costumes create Shakespeare’s tale anew for a 21st century audience. Director David Bell’s adaption of “The Merchant of Venice” challenges the audience to determine what is most important: vengeance, mercy, understanding, belonging, loyalty or love.

The play showcases an impressive array of Notre Dame talent. Film, Television and Theater faculty members Marcus Stephens and Richard Donnelly designed the set and costumes, respectively. Young Company interns include Alex Goldklang, responsible for original music and music direction, and Brian Davenport, a member of the cast. The cast includes equity actors, community actors and Young Company actors alike.

This year’s Shakespeare Festival also included performances by the Young Company. Young Company members, made up of students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, receive training in voice and speech, stage combat, production management and set and costume construction. They work with nationally and internationally renowned professionals in the Mainstage production as well as a show specially produced for them.

This year, Young Company performed “As You Like It” in the Festival. These free, outdoor performances began in mid-July at locations all around the South Bend community. The final performance was Monday in front of the Golden Dome.

The Shakespeare Festival also includes ShakeScenes, one of the most popular events. ShakeScenes consists of collected scenes from Shakespeare’s works performed by actors from the community. These local actors put their unique spin on the works in 10-minute scenes. Through this unique company, area actors and directors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in playing” Shakespeare, according the Festival website.