Paul Spera of “The Merchant of Venice” Discusses Justice Ginsburg’s Rising Fame

By Madison Glassman, Staff Writer

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Paul Spera in last year’s performance of “The Merchant in Venice.” Photo courtesy of Andrea Messana

French-American actor Paul Spera is starring in Peak Performance’s production of “The Merchant of Venice” this month, and a special guest is coming to see him perform this Saturday, Sept. 23. His grandmother, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will be at Kasser Theater over the weekend to see the show.

The Montclarion had the opportunity to talk to Spera via email about his relationship with Justice Ginsburg and his thoughts about her appearing in memes on the internet.

Justice Ginsburg became a political icon among young people when ‘Notorious RBG’ memes started gaining popularity on the internet.

“It’s bizarre,” said Spera. “Not something I would have expected growing up. Then again, we didn’t have memes when I was growing up.”

He also said that where he lives in France, most people don’t know what the U.S. Supreme Court is. He said the impact of the memes is something that still catches him off guard.

“When I come back to New York and I see the Strand Bookstore selling RBG coffee mugs, it’s a bit surreal,” said Spera. “But I’m glad she’s helping get some people going in the morning.”

Spera said his parents, sister, brother-in-law, aunt, cousins and friends will be joining Justice Ginsburg in the audience.

“My fiancée is coming too every night, but she’s contractually obliged; she’s in the cast,” he said. “Our future daughter is coming too, but she doesn’t really have a choice either. She’s in her mommy’s tummy.”

Performing in such a large-scale production seems like it would be extremely nerve-wracking, but Spera said he isn’t nervous, at least for now.

Besides being a Supreme Court Justice and feminist icon, Justice Ginsburg is also a fitness inspiration. Her longtime personal trainer wrote a fitness guide called “The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong…and You Can Too!” which is set to be released in October.

Spera revealed he hasn’t had the opportunity to workout with her, but he has tried her equipment.

“When I was younger, I tried out her NordicTrack a few times but I mistook it for a jungle gym,” Spera said.

Before the performance this Saturday, Justice Ginsburg will be participating in a roundtable conversation to discuss the production of “The Merchant of Venice.”

Montclair State students were allowed to enter a ticket lottery if they wanted to attend the discussion. For those who can’t make it, the event will also be live-streamed on HowlRound TV and Facebook Live.

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