University chancellor Dr. Bob Jones III will perform the role of Shylock, moneylender and chief antagonist in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, in three performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Rodeheaver Auditorium.
The play is directed by Jeff Stegall of the theatre arts department who will also play the role of Antonio.
According to Stegall, The Merchant of Venice was the first Shakespearean production performed at Bob Jones College in 1930.
This year’s production will be the 14th time BJU has performed the play.
Dr. Bob Jones Jr. played the role of Shylock the first 12 times the production was done, and Dr. Bob Jones III took on the role for the last two productions.
Stegall said Dr. Jones is an excellent cast member who arrives at rehearsals well prepared and with ideas for Stegall’s consideration.
“It always makes for a great process when the actors don’t just wait to be told what to do,” Stegall said.
“But they also bring ideas that the director can look at and shape into the final product,” he said.
In The Merchant of Venice, Bassanio and his friend, the merchant Antonio, negotiate a loan from Shylock for Bassanio to court the wealthy heiress Portia.
The play is considered one of Shakespeare’s more complex and controversial works since Shylock is a Jew living in an anti-Semitic culture.
This production is set in 1953, a time long after the life of Shakespeare.
Stegall said the modern setting forces the audience to examine all of the characters’ backstories in a post-Holocaust Europe instead of in an Elizabethan setting.
Stegall said the production will focus on Shylock’s negative character traits instead of his Jewishness.
Jones said the complexities of Shylock as a character present challenges that make him a enjoyable character to portray.
“I see him as a man that under different circumstances would have just been a shrewd businessman,” Jones said. “But in this situation, he is a very bitter and vengeful person.”
Jones said Shylock will do anything for his god of gold, but he hopes to portray the character in a way that helps the audience understand why Shylock behaves in the way he does.
“I believe when you portray a character, you should try to get inside his head in the best way you can and then convey him to the audience as the author has written him to be,” Jones said.
“That’s the thrill and the challenge of it all, to make him human to the audience.”
Jones said he hopes the audience can take away from the performance the fact that evil does receive its due rewards and the error in the greediness and vengefulness of Shylock.
Stegall said he hopes the audience will learn how not to act from observing the negative traits that many of the characters portray.
“Hopefully our relationships will be stronger by observing some of the negative character traits not just of Shylock but of other characters who oppose him as well,” Stegall said.