The Catholic University of America

April 11, 2014

Drama and Discussion Mix with "The Merchant of Venice"

“All that glisters is not gold,” as one of Shakespeare’s most controversial comedies, “The Merchant of Venice,” comes to life April 24 through 27 at The Catholic University of America.


Performances of the final production of CUA Drama’s 2013-2014 season will take place at Hartke Theatre, 2801 Harewood Road, N.E., Washington, D.C., Thursday and Friday, April 24 and 25, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 26, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m.

In conjunction with the play, the drama department will hold two panel discussions featuring faculty members from various departments and schools of the University.

The discussion “Shakespeare’s Shylock and Usury in Renaissance Europe” will take place at 6 p.m. on Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23, at Callan Theatre. It will be moderated by Todd Lidh, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and clinical assistant professor of English, with panelists Nelson Minnich, professor of Church history, and Andrew Abela, associate professor and dean of the School of Business and Economics.

The discussion “History, Poetry, and Law: Examining the Merchant of Venice” will take place at 12:30 p.m. on April 26 in the Hartke Theatre Upper Lobby. Panelists will include Jerry Muller, ordinary professor and chair of the Department of History; Tobias Gregory, associate professor of English; and A.G. Harmon, clinical associate professor of law. A reception provided by the CUA Alumni Association will follow.

A classic tale about prejudice, revenge, justice, and redemption, “The Merchant of Venice” tells the story of a questionable business deal between Antonio the merchant and Shylock the moneylender. When Antonio cannot fulfill his end of the bargain, he faces shocking consequences that call into question the beliefs of Venice’s people and expose the tangled legal strains of mercy versus justice, all while testing the tenacity of young men and women in love.

Though it was written hundreds of years ago, “The Merchant of Venice” is a controversial play, raising issues of prejudice and anti-Semitism. Director Eleanor Holdridge, head of the MFA Directing Program, said she hopes the production will help audiences confront their own hidden prejudices and cultural blind spots.

“Hopefully people seeing this play can recognize themselves in that and realize, ‘I’m not always the fairest person,’” Holdridge said. “It’s always great when rehearsal becomes not just about putting on a show, but that you also begin to see something in yourself and gain some kind of understanding about how you live in the world that you didn’t have before.”

According to Holdridge, the discussions will help students and audiences more fully understand what the play means and its historical context.

“It’s going to be great, especially for the undergraduates who are taking all these classes in various subjects, to actually see where the different classes intersect with the play that they’re doing,” she said. “That’s what’s really thrilling.”

Patrick Tuite, associate professor and chair of drama, said the discussions mark the first time in his memory that the department has planned an event involving faculty from other disciplines and schools.

“I’m really impressed with the quick response that we got from people of good will across campus,” Tuite said. “This is a great opportunity to put forward our best work and invite people from across the campus who have expertise in this area.”

Tickets are available online and can be purchased at the door at $15 for general admission; $10 for seniors and CUA alumni, faculty, and staff; and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, email, or call 202-319-5358.




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