June 25, 2013… The Stratford Festival regrets to announce that Brian Bedford has withdrawn from this season’s production of The Merchant of Venice, in which he was to play Shylock. Mr. Bedford is suffering from a medical condition, which, though treatable, requires immediate attention.
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who is directing the production, says Mr. Bedford made the decision with great reluctance. Earlier this season Mr. Bedford directed the enormously well-received production of Blithe Spirit.
“It meant so much to me to have Brian as part of my first season as Artistic Director,” says Mr. Cimolino. “He is a friend and a mentor, as he has been to so many people at the Festival. I will be forever grateful to him for creating such an elegant production of Blithe Spirit, a show which is delighting audiences and will continue to do so all season long.
“We wish Brian a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming him back to the Festival in the years ahead.”
The Festival has the great good fortune to have a superbly well-suited replacement within its own ranks: Scott Wentworth. Mr. Wentworth will assume the role of Shylock in addition to playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, roles for which he has received outstanding critical and audience acclaim.
“When this situation arose, I thought of all the people – both internally and externally – who could play the part of Shylock and quickly realized the best person was in our company,” says Mr. Cimolino. “When I told Brian about the selection of Scott, he called the choice ‘inspired.’
“This will be the third role this season in which Scott plays a father dealing with a strong-willed daughter. Scott has played such leading Shakespearean roles here as Macbeth, Iago, Mark Antony and Claudius. He has been intensely interested in Shylock since playing Antonio in our last production of The Merchant of Venice.”
The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.