(Madison, NJ—June 1, 2017) the HCST Foundation treated 120 High Tech juniors to a live performance of the Bard’s The Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, announced Dr. Joseph Giammarella, Principal of High Tech High school.
Students in Kerri Ann Murphy’s European Literature courses had just finished reading the play and wanted to experience the Bard’s play in a live setting. The Merchant of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, provokes audiences to reflect upon timeless themes relevant to young people’s lives, such as gender roles and expectations and conflicts between loyalty to ourselves versus loyalty to our friends, parents and romantic partners. Most importantly, the play shines a light on anti-Semitism and racial prejudice, and raises questions about how we treat outsiders, questions particularly relevant to teenagers.
The play’s setting has been transformed into the early 20th century. Students reflected on this production’s interpretation of the Christian characters’ treatment of Shylock and other Jewish characters in the play, and they thought critically about Venice’s anti-Semitic society, which places a high value on monetary contracts that shapes Shylock’s villainy.
“I was incredibly proud of my students and impressed with their level of engagement with the play, their ability to pick up on and respond to its humor and the depth of their questions during the talkback session,” says Murphy, a veteran Language Arts instructor.
Students pondered the actors’ interpretations of many of the complex relationship dynamics in the play, and how the cast and director approached the challenge of presenting the anti-Semitism in the play to a modern audience.
“I’m grateful to the foundation for understanding the educational value of this trip and for making this experience possible for such a large number of students,” adds Murphy.