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The Merchant of Venice

Engraving of Shakespeare's comedy "The Merchant of Venice"

Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant’ comes to Antioch amphitheatre

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A 14-member summer theater company led by Dayton native Chris Shea brings Avon’s bard back to Antioch this weekend with three performances of “The Merchant of Venice.” Free Shakespeare! performs at the Antioch College amphitheater this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 27–29 at 7:30 p.m.

According to a story by the Dayton Daily News, In his program notes, Shea says “Merchant” is a play that “leaps off the page and out of the 16th century,” dealing with contemporary issues ranging from bullying to religious intolerance. The tragic comedy concerns a Venetian suitor who takes a mortal risk by borrowing money to woo a wealthy heiress and ends up on trial when he cannot make good on the loan.

The Antioch College tradition of enlivening Shakespeare in the summer dates back to the 1950s with the Antioch Shakespeare Festival, a repertory theater of college faculty and community members that drew audiences from around the region. Shea, who began his career with Muse Machine in Dayton, was inspired by that history when he began this traveling theater group three years ago, according to the DDN story.

The Shakespeare troupe is a mix of professional and amateur actors who rehearse for about a month and stage very simple productions, profiting only from monies tossed into baskets at the end of their performances.

On the side, Shea also conducts Shakespeare play-reading groups on the first Monday of each month at the Dayton Visual Arts Center. He also fills in for Niki Dakota on WYSO’s “Excursions” and conducts artist residencies for Muse Machine.


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