Shylock at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Shylock

Garneau Theatre August 14 – 23


John D. Huston in Shylock. Photo credit Gordon F. McKenzie

John D. Huston in Shylock. Photo credit Gordon F. McKenzie

An interview with John D. Huston. 

Describe your show in five words.

It asks: is art dangerous?

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

A Jewish actor decides to play SHYLOCK, Shakespeare’s notorious Jewish moneylender as a villain: laughs and controversy ensue.

Last year you brought Screwtape, a show that you had written and adapted from two novels to Edmonton Fringe Festival. What made you want to bring Shylock, by Mark Leiren-Young, to Fringe this year?

It’s a great script: I had a big hit with it in 2003 and 2000. Also, I wanted to say those words and air those ideas again because, unfortunately, the same forces of intolerance that the play talks about are still very much with us. SHYLOCK is, alas, still relevant.

You’ve performed this play over 60 times – how as your perception/understanding of your character evolved in that time?

I engaged a new director this time: Natalie Joy Quesnel who fringe audiences may remember from 2005 in 52 Pick-Up with Stewart Matthews. She made it seem like a fresh script to me: a revelation after 15 years. I’m seeing and playing the piece in a whole new way. She helped me find my character’s vulnerability and brought out some much needed emotional nuance. It’s paid off: the audience response on this tour has been incredible: I’ve never had such lively, engaged houses: it’s wonderful.

You start your press release by saying ‘Canadian play too controversial for Canada’. Can you explain a bit more about why you think Shylock has been performed so many times outside of our country, but only three times – apart from your production of it – within Canada?

That SHYLOCK has been produced internationally as often as it has but has yet to run on a main stage in Canada beggars belief. It’s obviously an exaggeration to say that Canadian Theatrical Artistic Directors seem so scared of offending anyone I’m surprised they aren’t all running dinner theatres that play Norm Foster and Neil Simon exclusively but…

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

It’s very funny as well as thought provoking. I sold out my run in 2003 and most of 2000. I hope to do so again.

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca starting August 4.

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