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"Highly recommended.."
Suburban Journals of  Chicago Inc

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"A gallant  performance with some of the best Shakespearean acting to be seen. N'er a word misspoken nor a phrase misplaced, one of the finest productions of "A Merchant of Venice" .
Highly recommended......  Suburban Journals of Chicago Inc

review by Ed Vincent

In an age of blatant racism and religious bigotry, perhaps similar to present day, though less hidden in the writings of the great bard himself.  There are phrases which make a modern gent cringe, and yet the hateful words load the drama with the spite it requires to fuel the rage forthwith.

The costumes, sets, lighting, and sound are excellent.  The sound is one of the best ever heard with precise control and not ever a hint of feedback.  The call of cicadas even quieted once the production began.  The set is constructed well and design beautifully for the setting in Venice and Rome.

Opening night was perfect in all regards, temperature, insects, parking, and not an error noted anywhere.  It is offensive to hear the brutish dialog and worse to hear it today spoken by  violent people around the world with weapons and missions of hate.

The revenge for a life of contempt and disrespect taken by a man and his people is portrayed strongly by Michael Goldberg in the role of Shylock.  The words and deads of all help to paint a portrait of chaos and violence.  In it all Shakespeare manages to plant some seeds of forgiveness and humor on this trail of turmoil.  The original music of the production and wonderful scene transitions will help you want to return for another viewing.

The stage is set at the bottom of a small dale in the land surrounding an
orchard.  The slope of the hill allows for a natural amphitheater giving all a good view of the acting.  The parking is free and do bring yourself a picnic for the evening and enjoy great drama with some fine morsels of nourishment.

I look forward to many years of this companies productions, if they are only half as good as this one.

The cast of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE also features Gary F. Barth as "Salerio," Luke Daigle as "Lorenzo," Michael Mercier as "Sa|anio," Kris Reilly as "Gratiano," Hayley L. Rice as "Nerissa," René Ruelas as "Duke"/"Tuba|," Nate Santana as "LanceIot," and Cassidy Stirtz as "Jessica." The ensemble includes Robbie Bersano, Stephan ColIins—Stepney, Lane Flores, Michael Holding, Whitney Morse, Batuhan
Ozturk, and Emma Thatcher.

The artistic team includes Ann Davis (Scenic Artist), Stanton Davis (Vocal Coach), Kyle Kevin Gettelman (Technical Director), Christopher Kriz (Sound Designer), Rachel Lambert (Costume Designer), Michael McNamara (Lighting Designer), Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Designer), and Kayla Straub (Properties Artisan).

To further examine these themes, First Folio will also present a special fully staged reading of SHYLOCK AND HIS DAUGHTER by Maurice Schwartz. Originally written for the Yiddish theater and translated into English, this play tells the same story as THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, but from Shylock's perspective, turning the tale on its head in more than one way. The production will use the same actors as the main stage production of MERCHANT, with the actors playing the same roles.

Tickets to the special performances are only $10 and the production will be held on Thursdays July 26, August 2, 9, and 16 at 8:15 p.m.

All performances take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, which is owned and operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Situated on the lawn next to the lovely Portiuncula Chapel, First FoIio’s outdoor mainstage is the perfect venue for Shakespeare under the stars. The gates open at 6:45 p.m., giving audience members plenty of time to enjoy a picnic before the 8:15 p.m. start time. Featuring unlimited lawn seating, attendees are invited to bring their own chairs or blankets, or rent one for $2 each at the concession stand. Not only will audiences see some of the best Chicago-
area actors on stage, they may also catch sight of local wildlife, such as hawks, owls, deer, swifts and foxes. Biweekly mosquito abatement is conducted to ensure comfort, and free repellent is offered at the site. Concessions as well as pre—ordered box suppers from La Cuisine (prepaid 48 hours in advance) are also available. Located at 1717 W 31st St., just off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook, First Folio is easy to get to from either the East-West Tollway (I—88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I—55). Free parking is available on the grounds.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE runs July 11th through August 19th on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:15 p.m. Tickets range $26-37 with special discounts for Students and Seniors. Tickets for preview performances are $22. Season subscriptions and individual tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 630.986.8067 or online at vvww.firstfolio.org.

July 11 – August 19
First Folio presents: The Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare Under the Stars
Wed-Sun 8:15pm

For tickets call (630) 986-8067 or visit www.firstfolio.org

 Shakespeare’s most controversial play is a complex tale of hatred, love, revenge, and betrayal. Set in 16th C. Venice, this production will be the central element of a two-month long series of events that examine the Bard’s dark tale and the effect it has had not only on future dramas, but on all of society.


First Folio Theatre

 at Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve
 1717 W 31st St
 Oak Brook, IL 60523
  (630) 986-8067

First Folio History

First Folio Theatre is in its 13th season of bringing high-quality performances of Shakespeare and other classics to the Chicagoland suburbs. During that time, the theater has grown from an annual summer show to a year-round operation with three separate and distinct stages. As a professional, not-for-profit organization, First Folio relies upon the support and donations of friends and businesses to continue its efforts and build upon its success.

There was never any doubt that David Rice and Alison Vesely had the passion necessary to open and operate their own theater. Afterall, the lifelong Chicagoland residents met while working on a production together. Now married with a daughter in DuPage County, they had dedicated their lives to the arts and were well-versed in what it would take to be successful.

But as they considered launching Oak-Brook based First Folio Theatre in 1996, Rice and Vesely did not know whether the community would support a not-for-profit, professional theater dedicated to bringing high-quality Shakespeare and other classics to the suburbs. They could build the organization – but would the audience and donations follow?

Always up for a challenge, the couple launched First Folio with a performance of The Tempest on an outdoor stage at the scenic Mayslake Peabody Estate Forest Preserve in the summer of 1997.

They have not looked back since.

Now in its 13th season, First Folio Theatre has evolved into a year-round operation with two intimate indoor theaters and an outdoor stage – all at the same historic Mayslake Peabody Estate located just off of either I-88 or I-355. While the theater has opened new performance spaces, broadened its production offerings and even changed its name slightly over the years, it has never lost sight of its original commitment to quality productions. In fact, First Folio last year exceeded its previous record for attendance and earned a personal best 5 Jeff Nominations for theater excellence. The theatre also earned a listing in The Shakespeare Book of Lists as one of the “150 Great Places to See a Shakespeare Play.”

In all, First Folio productions have included everything from Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the outdoor Shakespeare Under the Stars mainstage to indoor productions such as The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe, Driving Miss Daisy and Design for Living.

Beyond production excellence, though, is the reality that from the charming Forest Preserve grounds to outdoor performances of Shakespeare Under the Stars, First Folio offers more than great entertainment – it offers an “experience.” The theater regularly encourages potential visitors to come to the theater and “experience it,” – because history has shown that once they do, they always return.

None of First Folio’s success would be possible without strong community support. As a professional, not-for-profit theater, First Folio is dependent on fundraising to fuel everything from the talent and sets on stage, to seats and risers for the audience, to mosquito abatement efforts during the summer months. As a result, the organization periodically hosts special performances and other fundraising events to supplement its budget.

First Folio also makes it a priority to be a part of its community. The theater is currently in its 14th year of school touring, offering four educational shows and an artist-in-residence program. The touring shows include Master Shakespeare and His Stories, designed for grade school aged children, Shakespeare’s Warring and Wooing, designed for middle and high schools, to The Fifty-Minute Midsummer Night’s Dream, geared towards high school students and our newest show, Edgar Allan Poe and the Tell-Tale Heart.  In all, First Folio has given over 200 performances at more than 100 Illinois schools and reached more than 100,000 students.

In addition, the theater is a member of the Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce, and continues to form new partnerships with area restaurants and hotels to attract more visitors to the region – and ensure the maximum value for First Folio customers.

With a dedicated volunteer Board of Directors, First Folio has developed a long-range strategy to further grow the theater, invest in staging and equipment and enhance performances. Ultimately, First Folio Theatre looks to build upon its tradition of excellence with Rice and Vesely still leading the way after 14 years – and there is little doubt they have the necessary passion to be successful.

Nick Sandys (Charles Condomine), Melanie Keller (ElviraCondomine) & Erin Noel Grennan (Ruth Condomine)
Photos by D. Rice

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Gary F. Barth as "Salerio," Luke Daigle as "Lorenzo," Michael Mercier as "Sa|anio," Kris Reilly as "Gratiano," Hayley L. Rice as "Nerissa," René Ruelas as "Duke"/"Tuba|," Nate Santana as "LanceIot," and Cassidy Stirtz as "Jessica." The ensemble includes Robbie Bersano, Stephan ColIins—Stepney, Lane Flores, Michael Holding, Whitney Morse, Batuhan
Ozturk, and Emma Thatcher.