Theater originated as a community activity, as I was reminded at The Shakespeare Forum's The Merchant of Venice production. The Shakespeare Forum exists as an artistic base for actors, director, and Shakespeare enthusiasts to engage in The Bard's materials. They keep the ticket prices low to encourage community attendance. The Forum also engages a few New City Public School students within their program. The props are sparse, the set it minimal, and it's staged in an old church. It's raw, but so it theater's roots. In The Merchant of Venice the direction by Sybille Bruun and Andrew Borthwick-Leslie engaged the audience in a way that enhanced the community feel.
Standout performances by Joseph J. Menino as Shylock and Hannah Rose Goalstone as Portia, as well as delicious comedic timing of Sarah Hankins as Nerissa led the charge to create a fast-paced and moving Shakespeare production. Ivan Birchal, the page and New York Public School student was according to his bio in the program "sooooo happy" to be in the show. His sparkling innocence spoke for the audience: He was having as much fun as we were.
If you find yourself in New York City and have an inkling for Mr. S., look to the Shakespeare Forum at www.TheShakespeareForum.com and perhaps drop into one of their weekly workshops. If you have a young one in your life: The Shakespeare Youth Forum is a year long program for kids aged 9-12 which culminates in their own production of a Shakespeare play.This group walks the walk — theater and community are one for them.