Press Release - ​​​District Merchants

West Coast Premiere: District Merchants by Aaron Posner at South Coast Repertory

COSTA MESA, Calif. (Aug. ​13, 201​6)— Aaron Posner is known for his inventive adaptations of Shakespeare plays. His latest, District Merchants, is inspired by The Merchant of Venice, but sets the story in post-Civil War America. It’s a world of blacks, whites, Jews and Christians, where money changes hands with dangerously high stakes and would-be lovers hide their differences. South Coast Repertory’s West Coast premiere of the play runs Oct. 2-23, on the Julianne Argyros Stage. Michael Michetti directs. Tickets are available at

In Shakespeare’s play, the merchant Shylock loans money to Antonio, who promises that if he can’t repay, he’ll make good on the loan with a pound of his own flesh. The loan will enable Antonio’s friend, Bassanio, to woo an heiress, Portia. When Antonio can’t repay the loan, Shylock insists on collecting the bond.

“I wanted to engage with the story in a way that could talk about core American issues and things that I am thinking about right now,” said Posner. “As I started talking about this idea with friends and colleagues, it just started taking shape. It got me thinking about the larger issues of discrimination; of people’s inability to see and understand others; to accept differences; and to engage positively with people from outside their comfort zone.”

Michetti said Posner’s approach to Shakespeare makes the new play relevant in today’s society.

“Aaron is able to blend humor, emotional truths and topics that make people think and he presents these through characters who are deeply flawed, like we are,” said Michetti. “District Merchants makes us laugh and cry, even as it forces us to face uneasy truths about critical issues. On one hand, Aaron wants us to look at this snapshot in time—the Reconstruction Era—but what he has written is still relevant to today’s audiences.”

Posner is an award-winning playwright and director. His plays include Stupid F**king Bird (a finalist for the Steinberg Award and the winner of the 2014 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play) and The Tempest (with Teller of Penn & Teller, produced at SCR in 2014). He is an artistic associate at the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., where District Merchants premiered last spring.

The cast includes Matthew Boston (Shylock); Chris Butler (Benjamin Bassanio); Akeem Davis (Lancelot); Matthew Grondin (Finn); Montae Russell (Antoine); Helen Sage Howard Simpson (Portia); Kristy Johnson (Nessa); and Rachel Esther Tate (Jessica).

The design and creative team includes Dan Conway, scenic design; Garry Lennon, costume design; Elizabeth Harper, lighting design; Peter Bayne, sound design; and Joanne DeNaut, CSA, casting. The production manager is Joshua Marchesi and the stage manager is Sammy Brown.

District Merchants is generously supported by Honorary Producers Talya Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker and Samuel and Tammy Tang. The media partner is 89.3 KPCC.

Tickets start at $22 and are available online at or through the Box Office, (714) 708-5555.

Discounts are available for full-time students, patrons 25 years of age and under, fulltime educators, seniors and groups of 10 or more. For complete information, visit:

Related Information for District Merchants

Tickets: May be purchased online at, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or by visiting the box office at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Performances run Oct. 2-23. Ticket prices start at $22. Low-priced preview performances run Oct. 2-6. 

Performance Dates, Times: 

  • Previews
    • Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m.
    • Tuesday-Thursday, Oct. 4-6, at 7:45 p.m.
      Note: Friday, Oct. 7, is an invitation-only performance
  • Regular performances
    Special note: There are no Monday performances.
    • Evenings:
    • Tuesdays-Sundays, Oct. 8-9; Oct. 11-16; and Oct. 18-22, at 7:45 p.m.
      • There is no evening performance on Sunday, Oct. 23
    • Matinees:
    • Saturdays-Sundays, Oct. 8-9; Oct. 15-16; and Oct. 22-23 at 2 p.m.
  • ASL-interpreted: Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m.

Special Events:

  • Post-Show Discussions:  Tuesday, Oct. 11, and Wednesday, Oct. 12. Discuss the play with District Merchants cast members during free post-show discussions led by South Coast Repertory’s literary team. Julianne Argyros Stage.
  • Inside the Season: Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Led by members of SCR’s literary staff, this lively two-hour session features in-depth interviews with cast members and artists from SCR's production staff, offering insights into SCR’s production of District Merchants. The morning includes a guided tour of the set. Julianne Argyros Stage. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased in advance or at the door.

Location: South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, at the Bristol Street/Avenue of the Arts exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway in the David Emmes/Martin Benson Theatre Center, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Parking is available on Park Center Drive, off Anton Boulevard.

Current and Upcoming Productions: All the Way by Robert Schenkkan, through Oct. 2; District Merchants by Aaron Posner, Oct. 2-23; Destiny of Desire by Karen Zacarías, Oct. 14-Nov. 13; Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Robert Kauzlaric and George Howe, Nov. 4-20 (Theatre for Young Audiences); and A Christmas Carol adapted by Jerry Patch, Nov. 25-Dec. 24. More information is available at

More information is available at

ABOUT SOUTH COAST REPERTORY: Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory, founded in 1964 by David Emmes and Martin Benson, is widely recognized as one of the leading professional theatres in the United States. While its productions represent a balance of classic and modern theatre, SCR is renowned for its extensive new-play development program, which includes the nation’s largest commissioning program for emerging and established writers. One-quarter of SCR’s 525 productions have been world premieres. SCR-developed works have garnered two Pulitzer Prizes and eight Pulitzer nominations, several Obie Awards and scores of major new-play awards. Located in Costa Mesa, Calif., SCR is home to the 507-seat Segerstrom Stage, the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage and the 94-seat Nicholas Studio.