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Riverside Shakespeare celebrates their19th summer with The Merchant of Venice.
For the past 18 summers, Riverside Shakespeare has entertained Traverse City folks and those in Leelanau and Antrim counties with performances of William Shakespeare’s plays. For this 19th season, Riverside Shakespeare will be presenting a modern day take on The Merchant of Venice, set in Venice Beach, California.
With a talented cast of veteran performers and a few newcomers to Riverside Shakespeare, this summer’s production promises to be comical and thought-provoking. Some of the actors have been in all or almost all of the past 18 seasons. Scott Bufe is the sole actor who can claim to have performed in all of Riverside Shakespeare’s productions, and this year he will be portraying the Prince of Morocco. Director and co-founder Jill Beauchamp has been involved in all but one of the seasons. Hedges MacDonald, who plays Old Gobbo, has only missed two summer performances.
Playing the lead female role of Portia is Mikaela Gould, a young actress with an old soul who will be performing with Riverside Shakespeare for the first time, but who showed her Shakespearian prowess in playing Puck in this past winter’s Old Town Playhouse production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Also making his debut with Riverside Shakespeare is Brian Raetz, who will be playing Lorenzo, Shakespeare’s quintessential young lover. Another first timer is Liv Hale, who portrays Jessica, the match to Lorenzo. And Cece Richardson also will premiere with Riverside Shakespeare, in a role that she has written all the lines for, as the tv newscaster Miranda.
The rest of the cast is filled out with actors who have performed for at least several years with Riverside Shakespeare, some returning after a few years hiatus and others having been in the last few years productions. Playing the male love interest of Portia, the Venetian Bassanio, is Bill Myers, The Presbyterian Church of Traverse City pastor and an actor in his spare time. Other leading roles are: Antonia, portrayed by Janet Stipicevich; Shylock, played by Michael Curtis; Gratiano, presented by Brian Dungjen (co-founder of Riverside Shakespeare); Nerissa, performed by Michelle Perez; The Duchess, personated by Bernadette Groppuso. The rest of the cast is Jeanette Kania (Salarina), Maggie Oliver (Salania), Brynna Wesley (Stephana), Daniel Jablonski (Launcelot), Levi Deters (The Prince of Arragon), Emma Oliver (Servant), and Rori Richardson (tv newscaster Calpurnia).
The two main plot lines intertwine throughout the play, with one being the quest of many men for Portia’s hand in marriage by guessing which of three containers holds Portia’s portrait, and the other being Antonia borrowing money from her enemy Shylock and then being unable to repay the loan. The plots are connected because Bassanio hopes to win Portia’s hand in marriage, but needs money from Antonia in order to complete his task, forcing Antonia to borrow that money from Shylock. When Shylock takes Antonia to court, the main characters end up all partaking in the crucial trial scene, the highlight of the play.
Performances begin in Leland, on Thursday, July 13 at 7 pm at the Old Arts Building on Main Street. The second performance is in Elk Rapids, on Saturday, July 14 at 6 pm at Veterans Memorial Park on River Street. On Sunday, July 15 at 6 pm, the performance will be in Northport at Hazerot Park next to the Marina.
For the following week-end, all performances are at Hannah Park in Traverse City, at Sixth and Union. These performances are Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 20 at 7 pm, and Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22 at 6 pm. All performances are outdoors, so audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and may want to also bring a picnic dinner. Admission is free, but donations are always gratefully accepted. In the case of rain, please check Riverside Shakespeare’s Facebook page for information: https://www.facebook.com/Riverside-Shakespeare-LLC-152497781464237/ . In Traverse City, the alternate rain venue is The Presbyterian Church, 701 Westminster.
This notice only lists the first venue and performance — please check the website for more information.