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'Ang Negosyante ng Venecia’ aims to provoke discussion on the Holocaust

Rody Vera and Tuxqs Rutaquio are well-known and prolific directors, writers, and actors.

This time, they've creatively conspired their powers in their latest collaboration: “Der Kaufmann/Ang Negosyante ng Venecia/The Merchant of Venice” in a bid to provoke a more thoughtful discussion of the issues of discrimination, racism, and intolerance using one of Shakespeare’s much-studied classical works.
In setting the triple-titled “Der Kaufmann/Ang Negosyante ng Venecia/The Merchant of Venice” against the backdrop of the infernal atmosphere of the Holocaust, the “experiment” of Vera and Rutaquio seeks to begin a thorough revisiting of the “classics” and the “originals” such as the numerous Shakespearean works.
The cast of Tanghalang Pilipino's “Der Kaufmann/Ang Negosyante ng Venecia/The Merchant of Venice.”
“Tuxqs and I started this journey with barely an exciting concept, if not conceit, in mind. Through workshops and rehearsals, the Actors' Company of Tanghalang Pilipino enthusiastically supported the realization of this experiment,” Vera said.
“I do hope this is the start of other explorations to dismantle and reconstruct these ‘originals,’ these classics taught to us in singular, inflexible interpretations to better understand them, using our own lenses, to the point of defilement,” he added.
In an interview, Vera said the production seeks to enlighten the audience on the “horrors of the Holocaust.”
“Although the production is a play within a play, those not familiar with the text of 'The Merchant of Venice' will be able to understand and appreciate the narrative of the Tanghalang Pilipino’s version,” Vera said.
For its third production this season, the performers in the “Der Kaufmann/Ang Negosyante ng Venecia/The Merchant of Venice” will use the 1977 translation by Rolando Tinio entitled “Ang Negosyante ng Venecia.”
Vera said the drama-comedy production will explore the anti-Semitic tone of Shakespeare’s work.
“The cruel irony implied could not escape me: A regime notorious for engineering the systematic, unspeakable murder of millions of people, Jews in particular, produced this play closest to the way Shakespeare probably intended it to be: as a comedy, with Shylock as a comic villain, someone to be laughed at, ridiculed, reviled, and meted out with a justifiable, satisfactory punishment: confiscation of his property and conversion to Christianity,” Vera added.
Vera said the production will also highlight the subject of homosexuality and how the Nazis treated, cruelly, the homosexuals at the time.
“In developing the concept of the 'Der Kaufmann' project, the homosexual, we realize is also inevitably subjected to the spotlight. The categories of labeling prisoners/outcasts by the Nazis are precise, clear and cruelly clinical. And in this staging play, they too are un-spared – for to fulfill the ideal world without wimps, stained bloodlines and perverts. . .all these dregs will have to be eliminated,” he said.
Prolific directors Rody Vera and Tuxqs Rutaquio collaborate on “Der Kaufmann/Ang Negosyante ng Venecia/The Merchant of Venice” in a bid to provoke a more thoughtful discussion about racism and intolerance using one of Shakespeare’s much-studied classical works.
Vera said he is aware that their interpretation may not be “liked” by those who would “hanker for sticking to the original.”
For her part, the play’s dramaturge, Giselle Garcia said, “the curse of presenting ‘The Merchant of Venice’ today is that we will never see it the same way again.”
“It is difficult to wrestle with ideas that vibrate with our modern sensibility as inheritors of historical and cultural events that skew our perception of the play,” Garcia said.
“Homosexuality was tolerated in Weimar Germany but the Nazis viewed them as pansies – weak and could not fight for the German nation. They were unable to produce children, which threatened their racial ideology and so eradicated them with the Jews, gypsies, political prisoners, criminals and asocials,” she said.
Rutaquio, co-director of the production, said the play relives the horror of the Holocaust, with the Nazis directing the Jewish “actors,” underscoring the dehumanizing effect of racism and intolerance, which is “a sharp contrast to the original material.”
“Tanghalang Pilipino’s Der Kaufmann is not meant to condemn any race for atrocities committed in the past, but rather, to underscore the artists’ continuing commitment to advocating respect for human rights, equality, justice, mercy, and forgiveness,” Rutaquio said. – KDM, GMA News 

The production runs from Sept. 27 to Oct. 13, 2013 at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. All photos are courtesy of Tanghalang Pilipino.