Drawing: F. Murray Abraham in The Merchant of Venice and Galileo

F Murray Abraham

F. Murray Abraham grew up in El Paso, Texas and was a gang member before becoming one of the most respected character actors of his generation, after his high school teacher introduced him to acting.

Since winning Hollywood’s piece de resistance, the Academy Award for his career-defining portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s bitter rival Antonio Salieri, in Milos Forman’s 1984 Best Picture, AMADEUS, he has mainly focused on classical theatre and some TV, including the award-winning series HOMELAND, collecting Emmy and SAG Award nominations.

Two of his acclaimed stage roles have been Shylock in an Off Broadway production of Shakespeare’s MERCHANT OF VENICE in 2011 and the title character in Bertolt Brecht’s GALILEO at the Classic Stage Company the following year. He reprised his Shylock role replacing Al Pacino in the Public Theatre production.

F. Murray returned to the Classic Theatre Company in New York this month in NATHAN THE WISE, which gave me the perfect opportunity to send this sketch for signing.

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Drawing: Jonathan Pryce and Phoebe Pryce in Merchant of Venice

merchant-the pryces

“Jonathan Pryce and his daughter Phoebe excel in Jonathan Munby’s inspired production of the Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare’s Globe in London,” wrote Kate Kellaway in her five star review for The Guardian.

“Casting Jonathan Pryce as Shylock and his daughter, Phoebe, as Jessica turns out to be no frivolous gimmick but an inspiration. It’s a family affair – a double star turn,” she concluded

The production ran in repertory from mid April to 7 June. Double Olivier and Tony Award winner Jonathan was making his first appearance on the Globe stage.

Stephen Collins of BritishTheatre.com wrote, “Jonathan Pryce is a calm, righteous and driven Shylock… (who) finds the heart and soul of the man and with scalpel like precision reveals his inner strengths and weaknesses… Pryce presents a memorable, complete and completely flawed Shylock. The look on Pryce’s face when Shylock is spat upon is seared into my memory. As Jessica, Jonathan Pryces real life daughter, Phoebe is splendid. Full of pain and grief, yet wildly, passionately in love.”

Drawing: Al Pacino

al pacino

I drew this portrait of Al Pacino as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 2011. Actually, I drew a couple of sketches of him in the New York production. One I posted, but never came back. This one sat in my bag folder I carry daily, along with other numerous drawings of possible luminaries I might come across. Last Sunday he was at London’s BFI for the screening of Salome (the film) and WIld Salome (the doco). I was not optimistic as I positioned myself in a pen with a pen sat the beginning of the red carpet.

He made his Broadway debut in Don Petersen’s Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie? at the Belasco Theater on Februry 25, 1969. Although it closed after 39 performances Al received rave reviews, winning the Tony Award.

Al played the Bard’s ruthless Venetian Jewish money lender in the summer of 2010 in a Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice. It transferred to the Broadhurst Theater in October and continued there until February 2011, with Al being nominated for another Tony.

He can be difficult to get a ‘graph from because everyone wants him, and if you do get one, it can be unrecognisable. He’s very quick. The customary ‘Al’ has many variations, especially when you’re caught up in the maelstrom that surrounds Alfredo James Pacino.

A climate change protest in Central London grid-locked the traffic, including Al’s car. We were warned he will be late, will do press and go in… but never fear, he will come back to sign. All that happened, but not necessarily  in that order. He would talk to media, then slip over to the baying crowd and sign a bit.

On one such sortie, he came down the line to me, but it was mayhem and he pulled away to head back to the press. He then noticed my sketch and came back, took it and signed a great ‘Al’ on it, gave me the thumbs up, handed it back and moved back to the media scrum. My folder was one sheet lighter and my collection now included one of the greastest actors of our time.

Drawing: Dustin Hoffman in The Merchant of Venice

Dustin Hoffman001

Known for his versatile portrayal of antiheroes and vulnerable characters, two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman took on the challenging role of ‘Shylock’ in Peter Hall’s production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in London’s West End. After a 13 week run at the Phoenix Theatre, mixed reviews and packed houses, the production transferred to The 46th Street Theatre on Broadway in December 1989, where it played till March the following year after 19 previews and 84 performances.

Dustin continued his role as the Jewish money lender with his thirst for revenge and ‘a pound of flesh’

Dustin was nominated for both a Tony and the Drama Desk Award. He signed my sketch at the theatre in New York in February 1990.