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The Merchant of Venice (Annotated),
or In Sooth I Know Not Why I Am So Sad


"The beauty of Henne’s play and his production is that it’s not really a play, it’s an oratorio...gorgeously rendered by the ensemble and the design team."

– Steven Leigh Morris, Stage Raw

"a poignant statement on how humans treat each other and how throughout history, money is power"

– Jeff Slayton, LA Dance Chronicle


Portland, Oregon

Monday, October 23, 2023, 7:30 pm at Portland State University (PSU)


Tickets are free with a suggested donation of $15. Reservations are strongly recommended.

More performance dates in additional regions to come!


What can a play from sixteenth century England tell us about how antisemitism and other prejudicial beliefs operate in our world today? What perceived truths does a play reveal about the society in which it was created, and what ideas within that society does it reinforce?

William Shakespeare likely wrote The Merchant of Venice between 1596 and 1598, only a few years after plague had temporarily closed London's theaters. This was a period of great uncertainty in English society, with ongoing conflicts taking their toll, concerns about the government's stability under an aging leader, and significant economic stresses. The anxieties associated with these societal pressures can perhaps be seen in Merchant in its portrayal of Shylock, the Jewish moneylender.


Bringing together elements of Merchant with Elizabethan history and news from the 21st century, The Merchant of Venice (Annotated), or In Sooth I Know Not Why I Am So Sad takes a kaleidoscopic view of the ways in which members of a society displace their fears on the "other" during times of upheaval.

The run time is approximately 2 hours 45 minutes including one 15 minute intermission.


The Merchant of Venice (Annotated), or In Sooth I Know Not Why I Am So Sad premiered on May 12, 2023 in Los Angeles in Shatto Chapel at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. The inaugural production engaged with the chapel's vaulted ceilings, ornate design, and iconography and incorporated the chapel's pipe organ in the music and sound design. It ran for a limited two-week engagement before beginning a tour to other locations throughout North America.


Following the Los Angeles premiere, The Merchant of Venice (Annotated), or In Sooth I Know Not Why I Am So Sad traveled to The Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival (JFEST) for a presentation on June 18, 2023 and continued to the Oshman Family JCC (OFJCC) in Palo Alto, California September 9, 2023 as part of a rolling world premiere. Also in the Bay Area, The Magnes at UC Berkeley presented a reading and discussion of selections of the work in partnership with the JCC East Bay on September 13, 2023.


Upcoming tour locations include Portland, Oregon in October 2023 and Baltimore, Maryland in early 2024. The Merchant of Venice (Annotated), or In Sooth I Know Not Why I Am So Sad is touring in conjunction with our residencies program, which is supported in part by a grant from The Covenant Foundation.


Written and Directed by Aaron Henne

Developed with Leslie K. Gray,  Erith Jaffe-Berg, Joe Jordan, Julie A. Lockhart, Gabrielle Ostrove, Flori Schutzer, Fahad Siadat, Dylan Southard, Diana Tanaka, Inger Tudor, Jon Weinberg, and Jonathan C.K. Williams


Joe Jordan

Adam Lebowitz-Lockard

Julie A. Lockhart

Diana Tanaka

Inger Tudor


Stage Manager: Roella Dellosa
Composer / Music Director: Fahad Siadat

Keyboardist: Andrew Anderson

Lighting Designer: Brandon Baruch
Sound Designer: 
Daniel Tator / Launch
Production Designer: Leslie K. Gray

Costume Designer: Kathryn Poppen

Dramaturg: Dylan Southard

Contributing Scholar: Erith Jaffe-Berg, PhD

Consulting Scholar: Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, PhD

Historical Consultant: Jennifer Wells, JD/PhD


The Breman Museum in Atlanta, GA presented an in-process presentation under the working title The Merchant Project on Sunday, February 5, 2023. The free event consisted of a 60 minute reading of selections from the play followed by a 30 minute Q & A.

That program was part of our 2023 Atlanta Residency and was supported in part by a grant from The Covenant Foundation.


The performance art piece The Villainy You Teach was created by theatre dybbuk in the winter of 2023 as a companion piece to The Merchant of Venice (Annotated), or In Sooth I Know Not Why I Am So Sad. Villainy also explores The Merchant of Venice through the durational performance of a Shylock monologue repeated throughout a stylized reading of the play. Its inaugural performance was presented in collaboration with Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and the Philosophical Research Society on March 2, 2023 in the library at the Philosophical Research Society.


  • resource packet from dramaturg Dylan Southard (PDF)

  • podcast episode "The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages"– Dr. Geraldine Heng discusses the evidence for racialized thinking in the European medieval period

  • podcast episode "In Defense of Women" – Dr. Erith Jaffe-Berg discusses 16th century Jewish life on the Northern Italian Peninsula and comedia dell'arte

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