Auditions: 25 May @7:30 to 10:00 p.m., 26 May @ 7:30 to 10:00 p.m.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Roderick Chappel
Antonio, a prosperous merchant of Venice in the sixteenth century, is approached by
his old friend Bassanio for a loan. Bassanio wishes to present himself in style and
travel to Belmont, in order to woo Portia, a young and beautiful heiress. Antonio’s
fortune is currently tied up in his trading ships, and he does not have the required
funds in hand. However, he agrees to act as guarantor, if Bassanio can borrow the
money elsewhere. Bassanio approaches Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock
hates Antonio, who has always treated him with contempt because he is Jewish, and
because he charges interest on money that he lends. However, Shylock agrees to loan
Bassanio 3000 ducats, to be repaid in three months. Pretending that it is a mere jest,
he specifies that the penalty for failure to pay on time will be a pound of Antonio’s
flesh, cut from his breast. Confident that his ships will return to Venice in good time
so that the debt can be repaid, Antonio accepts this condition for the bond.
Shylock’s daughter Jessica elopes with Lorenzo, fleeing her father’s house with much
of her father’s money, with the intention of becoming a Christian. Shylock is furious
at the loss of both his daughter and his ducats.
Under the terms of her late father’s will, no suitor may marry Portia unless they
choose correctly between three caskets, made respectively of gold, silver and lead.
Portia complains to Nerissa, her maid and confidant, about her lack of freedom to
make her own choice of husband. Unsuccessful suitors choose wrongly, and go
disappointed away. Bassanio, with his young friend Gratiano, sails to Belmont, where
Bassanio chooses the correct casket, to Portia’s delight. Portia and Bassanio prepare
to marry, as do Nerissa and Gratiano.
News comes to Belmont that Antonio’s ships have been unexpectedly delayed; he
cannot repay the loan on time, and Shylock will demand his pound of flesh at the
Duke of Venice’s court. Portia and Nerissa disguise themselves as men – a learned
lawyer and her clerk – and travel to Venice, where Portia uses brilliant legal argument
to confound Shylock’s malicious intentions, and save Antonio’s life.
After the trial Portia and Nerissa, still disguised, will accept no payment, but each
asks only for a ring which she has given her husband, who has sworn never to part
with it. Bassanio and Gratiano very reluctantly give the lawyer and clerk these
precious rings. Portia and Nerissa later have fun upbraiding their husbands for giving
away the rings, before the deception is revealed and all ends happily.
Audition Dates and Times:
Monday 25 May, 7:30 to 10 p.m.
Tuesday 26 May, 7:30 to 10 p.m.
20 to 29 August 2020
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays. This production is
to be set in the original sixteenth century, with period costumes.
The play has approximately 23 named characters, and 11 major roles (with dialogue
in between 5 and 9 of the 20 scenes) need to be played by individual actors. Five
other characters are significant but appear in only one or two of the scenes, and it
would be possible for one actor to play more than of these roles. Two roles that are
nominally male could be played by either a man or a woman. The full cast may
number about 15 or 16, including between 3 and 6 women, depending on the outcome
of the auditions.
Auditions will be open, reading from sections of the script, and there is no
requirement to learn or prepare anything in advance. It will be of assistance if
candidates who have auditioned remain at their audition session to read against other
If you wish to audition, but are unable to make the above-mentioned dates, please get
in touch as we may be able to accommodate other dates.
Please ring or email the Director to book into one of the audition sessions, or with any
questions. Audition pieces can be emailed on request. The script, which has been
trimmed somewhat, can also be emailed on request.
Characters for individual actors:
Antonio (M), the Merchant of Venice. Age flexible, mature personality, serious and
Salarino (M or F), Antonio’s friend. Age flexible.
Salanio (M or F), Antonio’s friend. Age flexible.
Portia (F), a young heiress. The largest role in the play: confident, articulate,
passionate, bold, creative and fun-loving.
Nerissa (F), Portia’s young maid, and trusted companion. She is lively and confident,
and a tease.
Bassanio (M), Antonio’s good friend, young to early middle aged. Positive,
forthright and outgoing. He woos and marries Portia.
Gratiano (M), youthful, eloquent, and playful. He marries Nerissa.
Shylock (M), A Jewish money lender, middle aged or older. The largest