Ross Alternative Works presents “Merchant of Stratford”
Written by Maury Zeff, Directed by Gabriel Grilli
Virtual Reading Performed Sunday March 21, 2021
About the Play:
Historians say of the Bard, “the more we know about William Shakespeare, the less we know about William Shakespeare.” The historical record is scant. Bill Bryson points out that we know for certain where Shakespeare was only fourteen days of his life. However, documents such as court filings, church records, wills, and property deeds reveal tantalizing facts: Shakespeare bequeathed his “second best bed” to his wife Anne. Shakespeare had twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet died at eleven in 1596. Shakespeare was not in Stratford at the time of Hamnet’s death. Shakespeare had a bachelor brother Edmund who was an actor. Shakespeare died wealthy.
What the documents hint at is even more fascinating: Shakespeare may have been a petty criminal—a loan shark and a hoarder of grain during famines. Anything we might want to know about his psychology, however, we are left to guess at from his writing. Although grief pervades his work, there is not a word about Hamnet in his plays. But there is a recurrence of twins and pairs being killed off. And then there is the matter of Hamlet, a character created a few years after Hamnet’s death. Was Shakespeare’s greatest character some sort of tribute to his dead son? These facts, speculations, and possibilities were the jumping off point for the conception of this play.
Merchant of Stratford was originally inspired by a talk given by Professor Robert Watson at UCLA in 2017. The play has been developed in workshops at Central Works, San Francisco State University, Will Dunne’s Story Weekend, and The Klatch Parnassus.
CAST in order of appearance
Judith Shakespeare ···················· SARAH GUILBAULT
Edmund Shakespeare ························· HENRY ALPER
William Shakespeare ················ STEVEN WESTDAHL
Anne Shakespeare ·························· NANCY FRENCH
Michael the Milliner & Valentine Molloy ·· DAVID L. YEN
Stage Directions ························ AMANDA CONRAN
Stage Manager……………MERYN MACDOUGALL
Production Managers…………..EILEEN GRADY & KELSEY SLOAN