‘Merchant of Venice’ plays Aug. 9-18

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WALLA WALLA — Shakespeare Walla Walla will present William Shakespeare’s play, “The Merchant of Venice,” Aug. 9-18 at Gesa Power House Theatre, 111 N. Sixth Ave.

SWW Artistic Director Stephanie Shine assembled a cast and crew of professional actors and artists locally and nationally. Los Angeles’ Action! Theatre Company Artistic Tiger Reel will direct.

The story focuses on themes of prejudice and mercy that are timely and relevant even 400 years after it was written. The local production will be performed in modern dress, examining well-moneyed, celebrity-crazed Hollywood culture with Shakespeare’s beautiful language, according to a release.

“What sets this production of The Merchant of Venice apart is the breathtaking swiftness of the storytelling,” Shine said.

“It’s a thriller. People will be on the edge of their seats.” While the play grapples with heavy themes, it also has uplifting elements of comedy and romance.

“Shakespeare has this delightful way of using unexpected characters to show us absolute truth, making us all feel capable of greatness,” Shine said.

Jack Young, appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, stars as Shylock. He and Reel co-adapted the urgently-paced edition, which played to critical acclaim and sold-out houses last year in Los Angeles.

Young heads the University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program and is Houston Shakespeare Festival Associate Artistic Director.

Portia is played by Amelia Fischer, who will previously appeared here as Miranda in the 2012 production of “The Tempest.”

Joining them on stage are local actors Kevin Loomer, late from the starring role in “Music Man” at the Fort Walla Walla Walla Amphitheater, and recent Walla Walla High School graduate Cougar Henderson. Loomer runs the Walla Walla Community College drama program and is known by local audiences for his work on- and offstage.

In addition to the 12 performances on stage, newly appointed SWW Executive Director Ron Williams has planned several educational programs to coincide with the run of “The Merchant of Venice.”

“Involving local children in the performing arts is central to our mission for Shakespeare Walla Walla. Since I’ve come on board it has been a key focus for this summer’s program,” Williams said.

“Whitman College and Walla Walla University will be helping with a number of projects including preshow discussions about “The Merchant of Venice,” and outreach to community-based advocacy organizations. We are also piloting a summer theater camp for kids at the YMCA this year.”

“The Merchant of Venice” will preview at Gesa Power House Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 8, with a special “Pay-What-You-Will” performance.

Opening Night follows at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 and includes a celebratory post-show reception with the actors. The run 7:30 p.m. performances Aug. 10, 13-14, 15-17, and 3 p.m. matinees Aug. 10-11, 17 and 18.

Doors open one hour prior to show time. Ticket prices range from $9 to $29 for reserved seating with special pricing available through FLEX ticket packages.

For details and to buy tickets, visit www.PHTWW.com or ShakespeareWallaWalla.org. or call 509-529-6500.

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