Magic touches the UTSA recital hall every fall semester as the UTSA stage is transformed into a world where Shakespeare’s classics are brought to life by a very special theater production.

The Actors From the London Stage (AFTLS) features a talented cast of five actors who travel across the nation to perform at universities. UTSA’s Friends of Shakespeare host these annual performances on the main campus so that students may have an opportunity to experience a professional theater group.

There are no directors, no backdrops and no costume designers. The actors run the entire show, on and off stage.

On stage, the actors assume several roles each while using minimal props and scenery. Without the distraction of the usual theatrical elements, the audience’s attention is on the five players on stage and the words of Shakespeare. The ingenuity of the performance itself is what makes this group of actors and their production special.

AFTLS returns this semester to perform Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” a tragic comedy about love, greed and mercy.

Hoping to help his friend obtain the finances to pursue his love, merchant Antonio borrows money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. In place of security interest, Antonio promises a pound of his flesh to Shylock if Antonio is unable to pay his debt.  When Antonio’s merchant ventures fail, he is forced to settle his deal with Shylock.

“The Merchant of Venice” has an interesting duality to it, depending on how it is interpreted by the actors. If seen as a comedy, the play is about how the evil Shylock gets his comeuppance and is made a fool for threatening the life of a good Christian. If the play is interpreted as a tragedy, Shylock is the victim of discrimination who loses everything after a bitter attempt at vengeance. In his famous speech (which includes, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”), Shylock can be taunting the Christians with glee, or he can be close to tears over the Christians’ anti-Semitism, depending on the interpretation.    

The AFTLS’s adaptation of the play should be interesting. During the week leading up into the performance, AFTLS not only comes to UTSA’s stage, but to classrooms as well with informative lessons in a variety of disciplines in their unique teaching style.

Interested? Be sure to get tickets in advanced as tickets sell out quickly. Performance dates are Sept. 19, 21-22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 – $18. To purchase tickets online, select a performance date at <colfa.utsa.edu/english/shakespeare.html> .

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