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The Folger Spotlight

ENCORES: 'District Merchants' performed by Folger Theatre (2016)

Folger ENCORES, red theater seats fading into darkness
Folger ENCORES, red theater seats fading into darkness

Folger Public Programs is pleased to present ENCORES, a bi-weekly online series highlighting past performances and recalling the rich history of programming on the historic Folger stage. These ENCORES provide a way to connect and revisit the breadth of Folger offerings with a wider audience.

ENCORES presents

District Merchants
presented by Folger Theatre
by Aaron Posner
Adapted from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael John Garcés***, 2016

Performed by

  • Matthew Boston*, Shylock
  • Maren Bush*, Portia
  • Akeem Davis*, Lancelot
  • Celeste Jones*, Nessa
  • Seth Rue*, Benjamin Bassanio
  • Dani Stoller*, Jessica
  • William Vaughan, Lorenzo
  • Craig Wallace, Antoine


  • Scenic Design by Tony Cisek**
  • Costume by Meghan Raham
  • Lighting Design by Geoff Korf**
  • Sound Design by James Bigbee Garver
  • Production Stage Manager, Roy A. Gross***
  • Assistant Stage Manager, Roy A. Gross***
  • Resident Dramaturg, Michele Osherow

*Actors’ Equity Association
**United Scenic Artists
***Stage Directors and Choreographers Society

Explore the costume and set designs and view rehearsal and production photos for District Merchants on The Folger Spotlight. Watch a trailer for the production here.

Read the introduction by cast member Dani Stoller:

Hello and welcome to Folger Encores. I’m Dani Stoller, and I’m so happy to be speaking with you. The Folger has been sharing selections from their plays, readings, talks, and music with you in this Encores series. Today we are revisiting the Folger Theatre production of District Merchants.

The play is a variation of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, and it was a Folger Theatre World Premiere commission written by Aaron Posner and directed by Michael John Garcés. District Merchants is set among the Black and Jewish populations of an imagined time that is simultaneously post-Civil War Washington, D.C., the early Shakespeare era, and today. District Merchants brings the character of Shylock from 16th-century Venice to Reconstruction-period Washington D.C. as an immigrant loan maker. The other characters of the play come together to create a complex social construct that is emblematic of cultural and religious divides.

In the scene you’re about to see, Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, played by me, is scheming with Lorenzo, a man who has asked her to elope with him after she steals everything she can from her father. Jessica envisions Lorenzo to be a means of escape from what she describes as the crushing weight of her father’s home, while simultaneously acknowledging that this might be the very worst idea she has ever had. I loved being a part of this play and the debut production at Folger Theatre. I was blessed to work alongside such a brilliant, collaborative, and creative group of artists.

Enjoy this scene with me and William Vaughan as Lorenzo, as we contemplate the future that is rising up to meet us. Please join us again for these biweekly episodes of Encores, highlighting all that the Folger has to offer. Thank you.

Folger ENCORES, red theater seats fading into darknessCheck back every other Friday for a new “from the archives” performance, introduced by some of our favorite artists, showcasing the best of Folger Theatre, Folger Consort, O.B. Hardison Poetry, and lectures.