Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: David Booth / Elisabeth DeWispelaere, NIU School of Theatre and Dance
(815) 753-1337

February 3, 2009

School of Theatre and Dance presents
Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’

DeKalb — William Shakespeare observed and wrote about the extremes of human nature – tragic and comedic – four centuries ago. He knew that even good people have flaws.

The Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance will perform a prime example of Shakespeare’s observation of the foibles of humankind in its next Studio Series production, “The Merchant of Venice,” opening Thursday, Feb. 12.

In this play, the character Bassanio borrows money from his friend, Anthonio, in order to win the love of his fair Portia. Anthonio must take out a loan from Shylock, a noble Jew, in order to lend his friend the money. As collateral for this loan, Shylock’s deal for failure to pay is one pound of Anthonio’s flesh, to be exacted from any part of his body he chooses.

In a domino effect of individual problems, the Jew becomes upset when he finds out that his daughter, Jessica, has turned Christian, and has taken all his money. Then, when Anthonio hears that all his ships have been wrecked at sea, he is unable to pay back the Jew. 

Director Stanton Davis says the resulting dramatic court scene is most often how the play is remembered, even though it is a comedy.

A School of Theatre and Dance assistant professor, Davis thinks that a modern audience will easily relate to “The Merchant of Venice.”

“The wonderful diversity of humanity is eternal,” he explains. “We are the same now as we were when Shakespeare was writing. We have the same dreams, hopes, weaknesses and sense of humor.”

“The Merchant of Venice” runs Thursday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 15, in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre on the NIU DeKalb campus, located behind McDonald’s restaurant on West Lincoln Highway.

Performance times are 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. There also will be a free dress preview performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11. All tickets are $5 and are only available at the Stevens Building box office on performance nights.

For additional information, contact the box office at (815) 753-1600 or visit

# # #