Oak Park Festival Theatre/Kane Repertory Theatre present The Venetians
Oak Park Festival Theatre, in partnership with Kane Repertory Theatre, presents a virtual production of "The Venetians," a new play by Matt Barbot that brings together various characters from several of Shakespeare's best loved plays to address contemporary issues. Winner of Roundabout Theatre Company's 2019 Columbia@Roundabout New Play series, the play directed by Edward Torres, premieres May 8 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed on demand through May 10-16. Tickets are on sale now.
Othello, the Moorish general, wants to give his beloved Desdemona the beautiful secret wedding she deserves... but that means borrowing ducats. Unfortunately for him, the Jewish moneylender Shylock has spent too long among the terrible people of Venice to see this marriage as anything but a death sentence for Othello. Unbeknownst to Shylock, however, his own daughter has begun an illicit romance that may bring their whole world crashing down on all their heads. A crossover between Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" and "The Tragedy of Othello," "The Venetians" uses two classical outsiders to ask questions about immigration, assimilation, national identity and what "acceptance" truly means.
"To us, this play represents a wonderful synthesis of our company's Shakespearian roots and our desire to expand our vision to one in which everyone is represented and celebrated on our stages," says Oak Park Festival Theatre Artistic Director Barbara Zahora. "This project also gives us the opportunity to work with Kane Repertory Theatre and the incomparable Edward Torres, and it our hope that this is just the first of other exciting collaborations to come."
"Barbot walks a line with 'The Venetians' which I have seen very few playwrights do before. He modernizes Shakespeare not just for entertainment's sake, but also to explore the intersectionality of characters in Shakespeare's worlds," says Kane Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Daniil Krimer. "Not only is the play powerful, but it raises valuable questions about identity, assimilation, and discrimination. All reasons why we decided to develop it with Matt, Eddie and Oak Park Theatre Festival."
Playwright Barbot has described his plays as stories about stories, with much of his work dealing with myth, religion, family legends, comic books, other plays, race and history, as well as the ways we navigate our relationships to all of these things. "The Venetians" was honored as winner of Roundabout Theatre Company's 2019 Columbia@Roundabout New Play Series. His "El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom" (Kennedy Center Darrel Ayers Award, Kennedy Center Latinidad Award) received its world premiere at Two River Theater in 2018. His work "Infallibility" was selected as one of Indie Theater Now's "Best of FringeNYC 2013 and his "Saints Go Marching" (semifinalist: 2018 Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference) was selected to feature on Steppenwolf's The Mix list. Barbot has worked with comic book creator Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez as an editor and co-writer for "Darryl Makes Comics' DMC," as well as Somos Arte's "La Borinqueña." Barbot received his MFA from Columbia University and was recently a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow and a member of The Civilians' R&D Group.
Director Torres' directing credits include the California premiere of "Water by the Spoonful" and the world premiere of "The Happiest Song Plays Last" (both by Pulitzer Prize-winner Quiara Alegría Hudes) as well as "Macbeth" for The Public Theater's Mobile Shakespeare Unit. Torres directed the world premiere of "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" at Victory Gardens, named Best Play of 2009 by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Time Out Chicago and recipient of Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Production and Best Director. He also directed subsequent productions at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and at Second Stage Theater in New York (Lortel Award for Outstanding Play and Obie Award for Best New American Play). Torres received a 2010 3Arts Artist Award and was a guest director at the 2011 Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference. He is artistic director emeritus at Teatro Vista, which he co-founded with Henry Godinez in 1991, and is a visiting Assistant Professor at Wesleyan University, where he was recently named an Old Globe 2021 Classical Directing Fellow.
The cast of "The Venetians" includes Ellen Campbell (Desdemona), Lawrence Grimm (Shylock), Bryant Hayes (Morocco/Caliban), James Vincent Meredith (Othello), Savanna Rae (Emila/ Elizabeth I) and Matty Robinson (Gobbo/Roderigo). Additional casting and the design team will be announced at a later date.