Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s ‘Original Pronunciation’ Production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Opens Tomorrow

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) opens its production of Merchant of Venice tonight. Fitting BSF’s philosophy of recreating the staging conditions of Shakespeare’s day, this historic production of The Merchant of Venice will be performed in Original Pronunciation (OP). It is not only the first time this play will be staged in OP since the 1590s, but St. Mary’s Community Center in Hampden is hosting the first-ever OP production in the Baltimore-Washington area.

The Merchant of Venice features one of Shakespeare’s most tragic and controversial figures, the vengeance-seeking moneylender Shylock. The clever and well-spoken Portia, whose intelligence shines every bit as brightly as her beauty, is also among his most fully developed and complex heroines. This classic tale showcases the tenacity of young love and calls into question the prejudices and beliefs of Renaissance-era Venice, offering ethical and philosophical musings that resonate with audiences to this day.

Chris Cotterman (Bassanio) and Valerie Dowdle (Portia). Photo by Lynne Menefee.
Chris Cotterman (Bassanio) and Valerie Dowdle (Portia). Photo by Lynne Menefee.

The BSF also welcomes British actor/writer and OP expert, Ben Crystal, who has been working with the cast via Skype. He will also visit the company twice during the rehearsal process, including the final rehearsals during the week before opening night.

Zach Brewster-Geisz (Antonio), Tegan Williams (Jailor), and Ian Blackwell Rogers (Shylock). Photo by Lynne Menefee.
Zach Brewster-Geisz (Antonio), Tegan Williams (Jailor), and Ian Blackwell Rogers (Shylock). Photo by Lynne Menefee.

Ben Crystal will be giving a lecture at Loyola University on March 25, 2015 at 4 pm.

Maryland Theatre Guide will be broadcasting a live webcast this Saturday night beginning at 8 PM. You can watch it here.

Emily Sucher (Jessica) and Brendan Edward Kennedy (Lorenzo) Photo Lynne Menefee
Emily Sucher (Jessica) and Brendan Edward Kennedy (Lorenzo) Photo Lynne Menefee

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) is dedicated to bringing the works of William Shakespeare to life for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. In Shakespeare’s time, the theater was accessible to everyone, and BSF prides itself on continuing that tradition by presenting professional quality work at affordable prices.

Ben Crystal.
Ben Crystal. Photo by Scott Wishart.

BSF productions are designed to help audiences understand and enjoy Shakespeare’s mastery of language and wordplay. The language of Shakespeare’s works is the cornerstone of their artistic and literary merit, and BSF takes great pride in paying meticulous attention to that language in order to deliver it in such a way that makes it accessible to modern audiences. BSF productions are not notion or concept driven – we believe the language that Shakespeare gave us is all an audience needs to appreciate these works.

BSF also continues to expand its outreach into the community, offering programs in local schools and libraries, as well as extensive summer camp programs for local elementary, middle, and high school students. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association and the Greater Baltimore CulturalAlliance. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is a member fund of The Community Foundation of Carroll County, and a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.


The Merchant of Venice plays from March 27-April 15, 2015 at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory performing at The Great Hall at St. Mary’s Community Center – 900 Roland Avenue, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them onlinePre-Show entertainment begins approximately 30 minutes prior to curtain time.

David Crystal’s Original Pronunciation website.

[The article is from Lynne Menefee, Public Relations Director at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.]


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