Scott Handy: Antonio in "The Merchant of Venice"

(photo courtesy of RSC production photos)

The Merchant of Venice was a play that generated an incredible amount of...discussion. In seeing the production, a majority of our travel study group was not in favor of the way the play was interpreted. The next morning Scott Handy came to speak to us and I have to give him credit for handling our perspective not only professionally but understandingly.

He explained their choice of setting the play in Vegas instead of Venice right away. Their idea was that Vegas contains people from all over the world. The allocation of accents lets them take our pick of what masks could cover the actors and their personas. Interesting enough, everyone except Antonio was given their own accent--something Scott refers to as "a watercolor among oils." The importance of these accents was explained by the personality each is stereotypically associated with. "Voices are very much a part of our bodies," said Scott. Sometimes you can create the most intimate relationships through conversation alone.

When talking about his work as an actor, Scott insisted, "There is no such thing as characters, only worlds." There are common facts and maybe even expected actions, but everyone's world as an actor and as a viewer are different. It really is true that no character is ever be translated in the same way for every person. He believes that as witnesses, all we can do is be still and watch the world move around us. Even just in this perspective, an explanation begins to arise as to why some people did love this play--because it represented something different to them. It translated efficiently to their outlook.

Antonio's death in the play is also what Scott considers a right and successful ending. It gives Antonio's life value for the purpose of dying for the sake of Bassanio's narrative. Scott does, however, stray from defining exact reasons for other artistic endeavours of the play, such as the trial scene, for the sake of saving something from a diminishing definition when it could consist of numerous ones. I give him credit for this.

Some of Scott's last words were his own perspective on love. He stated that love requires the genuine seeing and having of another human being. Maybe The Merchant of Venice wasn't exactly what we expected to see, but that didn't mean it lacked any of the feeling that was meant to be translated from the text. Sometime its easy to get distracted by production effects instead of the story. And that's okay, as long as you're aware.