Valley Shakespeare Festival announces Merchant of Venice cast

Valley Shakespeare Festival began rehearsals for its upcoming equity production of The Merchant of Venice on Monday, Feb. 25. The production is directed by the company’s founder and Executive/Artistic Director, Tom Simonetti.
The title role of The Merchant, Antonio, has gone to Zak Risinger, fresh off his Off-Broadway run in Christmas in Hell at the York Theater. Risinger previously performed with Valley Shakespeare Festival in its Shakespeare in the Bar series production of The Tempest.
Another performer with Off-Broadway credits, Josh Johnston, has garnered the role of Bassanio, Antonio’s good friend and the beneficiary of the loan that causes all the Merchant’s troubles. Johnston also is a musician having appeared in numerous regional musicals.
The role of Portia, Bassanio’s intended, will be played by Katie Zaffrann, a veteran of Shakespeare & Co. in Massachusetts, Cape May Stage in New Jersey, freeFall Theater in Florida, the Delaware Theater Company, the Opera House Arts Theater in Maine and the Chenango River Theater in upstate New York.
Kendall Segovia will take on the part of Nerissa, Portia’s lady-in-waiting and confidante. Segovia’s credits include both Broadway and film.
Brian Ott and Daniel Rios Jr. have been cast as Bassanio’s friends Lorenzo and Gratiano, respectively. Ott has performed with various Shakespeare theater companies up and down the East coast, and Rios has most recently appeared on stage with the Silverthorne Theater Company in Massachusetts in the world premier of White, Black and Blue.
Andie Lerner, who will portray Shylock’s daughter Jessica, is a native of Denver, Colorado and recent graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, who is now working as an actor, director and theater collaborator in NYC.
The youngest member of the cast is Shelton native Killian Meehan, a high school student who has performed with numerous local theater companies. He has previously performed with VSF as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending, Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, and no fewer than three roles in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Meehan will be taking on the comic role of Launcelot Gobbo, a servant who leaves Shylock to work for Bassanio. He opines, “The opportunity to be a part of this ensemble amid current events in the world is profound.”
Finally, playing the role of the money-lender Shylock, is Joe Penczak, a veteran performer of the stage, screen and television. He has performed around the country and around the world, owns his own nonprofit theater company which performs free Shakespeare in the Park each summer in Westfield, N.J., and has also performed the role of Shylock on site in Venice.
Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Merchant of Venice will run for two weeks beginning on Thursday, March 7 through Sunday, March 17, Thursdays through Sundays, atValley Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare’s controversial comedy, The Merchant of Venice, Thursday through Saturday, March 14-16, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 17, at 1 p.m., at the former home of the Echo Hose Ambulance Training Center, 286 Howe Ave., Shelton.
Details and ticket information are available at and its Facebook page.