Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Performing The Merchant of Venice

ENG 141 / British Literature
Bro. Rob Peach, F.S.C.
Performing The Merchant of Venice

To develop a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s craft as a playwright
To work cooperatively to dramatize selected scenes


1. The class will break into acting companies to prepare scenes for presentation.
2. Each acting company will prepare a promptbook for its scene. The additional handouts provide more specifics about the promptbook and the preparation of the scene.
3. In addition to presenting a scene from The Merchant of Venice, each acting company will write and present a one minute commercial promoting some consumer product which relates to one of the following:

The Merchant of Venice
Current Events

4. Each company is allotted four class days to complete this assignment:

Each company will likely have to work outside of class to meet the presentation
Deadline of January 28, 2009

5. To receive an A each actor must try to memorize his lines. The highest grade a group will receive if the actors choose not to memorize their lines is B+. The commercial must also be memorized and include visual aids.

Suggested Scenes

I.1.1-83 Salarino and Solanio try to help Antonio determine why he is sad.
I.3.106-194 Shylock, Antonio, and Bassanio set the terms for the loan.
II.4 Lorenzo, Gratiano, Solanio, and Salarino try to arrange a masque for
Bassanio’s dinner. Lancelot gives Lorenzo Jessica’s letter.
II.7. Portia and Morocco together discuss chests
II.9.1-90 Nerissa, Portia, and Arragon: choosing the silver casket
III.2.1-110 Portia, Bassanio have a dialectic about love and the game
III.2.111-222 Portia, Bassanio, Gratiano, and Nerissa share in each other’s joy
III.1.23-72 Shylock, Salarino, Solanio: “Hath not a Jew…?”
IV.1.169-418 Courtroom scene: “The quality of mercy…” Duke, Portia, Shylock,
Bassanio, Gratiano, Nerissa
V.1.192-249 Portia is upset that Bassanio gave away the ring to the lawyer. Gratiano,
Portia, Bassanio, Nerissa

Instructions for preparing your scene

You have four class days to complete the preparations and to memorize your lines. Be productive. Be creative. Do your best. Your classmates and I look forward to your production.

1. Appoint a director and cast the scene. When you perform, each person in the company should have a chance to be on stage with at least one line.

2. Read through the scene aloud at least once, preferably twice. Decide collectively on the cuts and make the cuts right away. Your scene should not take longer than ten minutes to perform. The commercial should take about two minutes and is not included in the ten minutes for the scene. Read the scene aloud after you have decided on the cuts, timing yourselves, and making necessary adjustments. Allow extra time; performing a scene takes more time than just reading it.

3. Talk about characters: What they want in a scene; how they talk and move. Decide upon each character’s actions and gestures during the scene.

4. Memorize your lines if you want an A.

5. Plan costumes and props. These do not have to be elaborate, but should show that you took the trouble to think about what would best convey the impression you are after.

6. Appoint a prompter and establish clear signals about how the prompting should be handled. If actors are not memorizing their lines, write the lines and cues on large note cards to glance at during the performance.

7. Give your acting company a name.

8. If you like, plan extra touches like music, sets, and programs.

9. Throughout this process, record your decisions in a Director’s Promptbook, due the day the scene is presented.

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