Does this sound like a theatre company for you? We're looking for actors, directors, playwrights, designers, and enthusiastic admirers!
For more information, send an e-mail or your headshot
& resume to
The Taming of the Shrew
In our production, we did our best to strip away the laminations of modern twists and interpretations, and offer the play as genuinely as possible, hoping that the audience will step up to the challenge of accepting the play on its own merits as it was originally intended in a period context. We have faith in our audiences and chose not to do the work of interpretation for them. In fact, our goal was to create a play that would leave an audience watching carbon copy performances in a gentleman’s club and a women’s group meeting swearing they had seen two different plays.
Kate’s neighbors in Padua reject her spirited nature, as would an audience of Shakespeare’s time who still regularly saw popular morality plays about Lot’s and Noah’s shrewish wives and their harsh demises. Untamed, Kate is referred to as "mad," "froward" and "Katherine the curst." However, Petruchio, too, is in many ways himself a societal outcast. He isn’t afraid to match Kate’s outspokenness step for step, challenging many common social conventions himself, as demonstrated in the courtship of Kate and his, ah, uncommon wedding garb, in every way mirroring Kate's own extreme behavior. These two spar verbally at their first encounter, captivating each other, pleasantly surprised to finally meet a worthy sparring partner even, perhaps, an equal.
In the play, Petruchio employs common techniques of Elizabethan falconry to change his Kate's behavior. Unlike those raised from the egg or fledglings, a mature wild falcon or hawk (also called a "haggard", a term used in the play) was kept strapped to her keeper's wrist and "watched." For a time, the captor deprived the haggard of food and sleep, keeping her awake by staring into her eyes, and gently stroked her to accustom her to his touch. WThis 'watching' process continued, often for days or even weeks, until the haggard tcame to trust her keeper; and he her, for a full-grown falcon might grievously injure her tamer. In the end, this process actually tamed both the bird and her captor, for he too was deprived of food and rest.
Turning to the text, several comments by Petruchio in the final scene of the play clarify his views (and perhaps Shakespeare's) about the taming of Kate. First, he tells Lucentio that, while he might bet twenty pounds on the obedience of his "hawk or hound," he would be bet no less than "twenty times so much" upon his wife. In a clever turn of a phrase by Shakespeare, Petruchio had already 'wagered 'on Katherine, for in that day, one of the meanings of ‘to wager’ was ‘to wed,’ Secondly, when Hortensio questions what the obedience displayed by the transformed Kate bodes, Petruchio explains, "Marry, peace it bodes, and love, and quiet life." An Elizabethan proverb, also referred to in the play earlier by Kate herself, said that an unmarried woman was doomed to "lead apes in hell" because she had no children to lead her into heaven. Kate's acceptance, and the terms of their new relationship ,thus provide both of them with possibilities other than the misery or discord everyone expected for them.
Throughout this ‘taming process’ then, Kate and Petruchio eventually learn to trust each other, The idea of taming expands to encompass others too, and relationships that would seem to be simple turn out to be more complicated in the end. Hortensio disavows beauty in favor of kindness, but his convenient solution of marrying the Widow proves she is far from kind. Even the much sought after, fair Bianca proves to be more like her sister under her polished veneer.
On that subject, the secondary love story of Lucentio and Bianca alludes to a classic commedia scenario well known to audiences of the day, and we sought to explore that in our production. Lucentio and Tranio, in a classic Commedia bit, trade roles as master and servant in order to trick Baptista out of his real "treasure," Bianca. In fact, we discussed the fear this would have created among the Anti-Theatricists of Shakespeare's day. Lucentio, in his guise as as the tutor Cambio (which is Italian for "I change,"), tells his pupil Bianca that his disguise will "beguile the old pantaloon," a reference to the classic commedia character Pantalone, an old miser easily recognized by audiences of the time. Hortensio also enters the web of deception to compete for Bianca, becoming the music teacher "Litio", which is the Italian for "I flatter." Gremio, who by nature can't pretend be anything more than himself, and is left out of the discguise game, loses his bid for Bianca, and his name "Gremio" likely derives from the Italian word for "to crowd," designating him as the classic third wheel.
Finally, I would like to offer a few comments about my decision to include text from the ‘Bad Quarto’ of 1596, specifically the continued storyline of Sly throughout the play to the epilogue. This text is based on “The Taming of a Shrew”, commonly considered a ‘bad recollection by one of Shakespeare’s actors’ within that volume. There is great debate about its authenticity as the First Folio, on which we based the vast majority of our dramaturgy, ends that story line in the first act. Even in Shakespeare’s time, this was an unpopular decision. The concept of metatheater, the play within a play, fascinated me as much as many directors. In fact, ‘finishing the story’ was a common practice in American productions of “The Taming of the Shrew” from the nineteenth century in this country and has been done in some much-debated modern English productions. It is also known that references to the storyline being finished within Shakespeare’s own lifetime exist, and the question lingers about whether this was an oversight in registry with the Stationer or whether it was, in fact, added later legitimately. For our own purposes, we greatly enjoyed playing with the possibilities of maintaining the metatheatrical elements and it has added a new dimension to our production. We also acknowledge that it offers the audience a new window through which to interpret this ‘problem’ work.
|Web site created by Gryphon Web Design Services, Inc.||
Copyright Misfit Toys Rep 2008