The Merchant of Venice: A Performance and Peace Talk

March 17, 2019 @ 4:15 pm
Chapel Auditorium, The Madeira School
8328 Georgetown Pike

Traveling Players Ensemble presents The Merchant of Venice

This special performance of the Shakespeare comedy, staged by Traveling Players Ensemble, will be followed by a discussion led by American University professor and peace educator Barbara Wien.

The Merchant of Venice is infamous for its troubling portrayal of Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. On the surface, Shylock is the villain of the play, attempting to exact a brutal revenge on a business rival.

On the other hand, Shakespeare also portrays Shylock sympathetically, at one point invoking the famous, “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech to underline his shared humanity with the Christian characters of the play–a radical idea in Shakespeare’s time. This layered and contradictory portrayal has perplexed scholars and theater practitioners for centuries.

In order to address the play’s themes and history, Traveling Players has invited Professor Barbara Wien to discuss the play with the cast, director, and audience in light of the current rise in antisemitism.

Professor Wien has worked to end human rights abuses, violence and war. She is a practitioner-scholar with extensive knowledge of sustainable peace agreements and best practices in ending gender-based violence. Her many credits include working for the U.S. Institute for Peace and leading V-Day, the organization founded by Tony Award-winning actor and playwright Eve Ensler to end violence against women. She moderates the Middle East Peace Cafes offered by Busboys and Poets.

Traveling Players Ensemble is dedicated to teaching Shakespeare to teenagers through performance, and creating dialogue with the larger community by touring its plays to groups particularly invested in a specific theme. For example, the Merchant of Venice tour also includes a performance at the Jewish Community Center’s Ring House in Rockville, with a post-show discussion moderated by Jewish spiritual leader Hassan Sabrina Sojourner.

“I’ve always been scared of this play,” says Artistic Director Jeanne Harrison, “and after the shootings at Tree of Life in Pittsburg, I nearly cancelled. Everything felt so raw. But that also makes it the perfect time to talk about anti-Semitism. Teens need strategies to create peace and protect the vulnerable in an increasingly tribal world. We all do. Perhaps this troubling play can provide healing?”

The March 17 performance at The Madeira School is part of a festival, which begins at 3 p.m. with Alice in Wonderland (recommended for ages 6-12), followed by The Merchant of Venice at 4: 15 p.m. (recommended for ages 10 and up). Tickets are $10 at the door; children under 6 are $5.

Presented by Traveling Players Ensemble’s high school students, the play features the talents of Maria Cannon (Chevy Chase, MD), Katie Conner (Fairfax, VA), Rebecca Connor (Fairfax Station, VA), Amanda Guzman Romero (Brambleton, VA), Oscar Linehan-Siu (Arlington, VA), Ariel Noble (Clifton, VA), Erin Sharpe (Vienna, VA), Brianna Shelton (Sterling, VA), Harry Stevens (Arlington, VA), Eleanor Tucker (Washington, DC), and Paul Weaver (Falls Church, VA). Directed by Jeanne E. Harrison, with set and costume designs by Adalia Tonneyck.

Traveling Players Ensemble is known for its award-winning summer theater camps, which train teens and pre-teens in classical theater and then take them on tour to perform their shows. Since 2003, the company has performed “Shakespeare in the Park” in Shenandoah National Park, as well as Colonial Williamsburg, Lime Kiln Theater and many other locations.

For more information, visit or call 703-987-1712.