The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0026 Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Subject: F. Murray Abraham stars in rare double bill
The Oneida Daily Dispatch
F. Murray Abraham stars in rare double bill
By Wayne Myers, Dispatch Drama Critic
NEW YORK - New York was abuzz as the Delacorte Theater, Central Park
home of the New York Shakespeare Festival, neared completion in early
1962. But the story quickly became about the play that New York
Shakespeare Festival founder Joe Papp selected to inaugurate the
Delacorte with on June 18, 1962-Shakespeare's 1597 "The Merchant of
The cast featured George C. Scott as the Jewish moneylender Shylock and
James Earl Jones as the Prince of Morocco.
By that point, "The Merchant of Venice" had a long, colorful history of
protest. Now the NYSF production-and WCBS-TV's announcement that there
would be a live telecast of the staging on CBS-was about to enlarge that
New York City's most influential rabbis came out against the production
and the telecast of the play, viewing the character of Shylock as
reinforcing ugly stereotypes of Jews. It became a national story. The
play would end up running for 17 performances at the Delacorte. Citing
the international media and research firm Arbitron, Helen Epstein, in
her book, "Joe Papp: An American Life," wrote that "the televised
broadcast was seen in 800,000 homes by an estimated audience of two
There is almost no track record of outrage, however, over performances
of Christopher Marlowe's 1590 "The Jew of Malta"-probably because it's
rarely performed now, especially stateside, even in New York. But it was
hugely popular in London from its first performance around 1590 through
the closing of the theaters in 1642.
If "The Merchant of Venice" inevitably draws protest for its character
Shylock, what can be expected from "The Jew of Malta?"
Now Theatre for a New Audience is mounting both plays as a double bill
with a 14-member ensemble that includes F. Murray Abraham at the Duke on
42nd Street in New York.
[ . . . ]
Editor's Note: I read an interesting article the other day that I found
at the website "All About Jewish Theatre," which describes itself as
"The Global Website to promote and enhance Jewish Theatre and Performing
Arts Worldwide. The article, "A very Jewish villain," by Jonathan
Freedland appears to be a reprint from a 2004 edition of the Guardian.
The piece is a review of Michael Radford's feature film The Merchant of
Venice with Al Pacino as Shylock. Many of the issues that it examines
have been much discussed on SHAKSPER in the past: Is The Merchant of
Venice a profoundly anti-Semitic work? Is Shylock a villain? and so on.
What I found most interesting was the discussion of the play in the
medium of film: "For the very nature of the medium aggravates the
traditional dilemmas of staging The Merchant of Venice." This issue is
the reason that I mention this review, and I am not inviting a rehashing
of those topics that have been thoroughly discussed in the past. The
article can be found at
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