Commemorating both the 500th anniversary of the founding of the world’s first ghetto in Venice and the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, The Floor of Heaven is an original interdisciplinary project that interweaves text from Shakespeare’s masterpiece with the music he and his characters would have heard.
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is poised between two Empires — The Sceptered Isle and La Serenissima. In honor of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare and the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Venetian ghetto, The Floor of Heaven interweaves moments from Shakespeare's complex and revolutionary text with the play's original music and songs from the English-Venetian soundscape.
Featuring music of Campion, Dowland, Pilkington, Monteverdi, and Salomone Rossi.
Acclaimed musicians soprano Jessica Gould, countertenor Nicholas Tamagna, and lutenist Christopher Morrongiello, educated at Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music, collaborate with a cast of noted actors, and directors Erica Gould and Deborah Houston to create a dynamic reflection on Shylock's Venice. With Ayo Haynes, Gabriel Sloyer, David Arrow, and Ezra Knight as Shylock. Script adaptation by Erica Gould.
Location: The Bernie Wohl Theater of Goddard Riverside
647 Columbus Avenue between 91st and 92nd Streets
Sunday, December 11 at 7PM
Additional Info: The twilight of 2016 presents a unique opportunity to commemorate two historical moments of great significance to our culture and time — the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, and the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Venetian Ghetto, the first of its kind, constructed in order to physically separate Jews from Christians. There is perhaps no other work that touches on the intersection of these two events as neatly as Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which takes place in and around the Ghetto. From excerpts of Shakespeare’s masterpiece and the music of both the London where he lived and the Venice of his imagination, we have conceived The Floor of Heaven, an original interdisciplinary work starring Ezra Knight as Shylock, and featuring music from the play itself and the world of its characters. Centuries of debate have surrounded Shakespeare’s play and its treatment of the central character. At times the play has been misused as a tool of anti-Semitic propaganda. At other times, such as our own, a closer look at Shakespeare’s nuanced text reveals a sensitive examination of anti-Semitic prejudice, the hypocrisy of the privileged class, and the corruptive force of money on the interaction of people at all societal levels. Outsider characters in the play include not only a Jew unable to achieve justice in a Christian world, but a homosexual unable to openly express his love, and a woman able to exercise her rhetorical and analytical skill only while disguised as a man. In this way, The Merchant of Venice is a shockingly timeless play, a prescient examination of the struggle of the Other to achieve the status of full personhood in a repressive society. An African American cast reflects our assertion that the unending struggle against anti-Semitism and racism, while by no means identical, offer unsettling parallels, particularly in our own, troubled times.