Free Shakespeare in Zilker Park: The Merchant of Venice
Zilker Hillside Theater, May 8 – 26
by Holly Cowart
Photograph by Kimberley Mead
Our city’s dedicated Shakespeare aficionados are teaming up with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for the 35th annual Free Shakespeare in Zilker Park, a series of performances open to all at Zilker Hillside Theater. This month, “The Merchant of Venice” will be taking center stage. Written between 1596 to 1598, the story focuses on Bassanio, who, in an effort to gain the wealthy Portia’s hand in marriage, calls on his dear friend and Venetian merchant Antonio for a loan. Antonio then becomes indebted to the begrudged moneylender Shylock, who requests his payment be returned with “a pound of flesh.” Intertwining tones of romance, comedy and danger culminate in a lively trial, metaphorically underscoring the pitfalls of greed and what a life is truly worth. Set in the Belle Époque period of 1890s Italy and brought to life by theater company Austin Shakespeare, the play highlights the immersive design of artistic director Ann Ciccolella and costume designer Aaron Kubacak.
Spread your blankets across the grassy lawn and kick-start summer with this imaginative community production. Performances will take place Thursdays through Sundays until May 26, with a preview show on May 8 at 8 p.m.