Monkeys are smart. Though they haven't created cars or trains or weapon, they are educated through simplicity. They flourish on what they have, and if something doesn't work, they don't give up, but they evolve to overcome it. Like monkeys, Shakespeare had no thesaurus, no dictionary, no laptop and no editor. But when he came to a spot where he was at loss for words, he made up his own words. Through practice, perseverance and certainly trial and error, he created works that will last forever.

I am a 13 year old kid who is trying to read and attend live performances of all 37 Shakespeare plays (plus 3 possible collaborations) in 2 years. This is a record of my experiences.

I am now a 19 year old college freshmen at Northwestern University, pursuing a degree in Theatre. The spark of love for Shakespeare that began this blog has grown into a roaring fire. That fire burns a little bit brighter each day. This is where it all began.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Taming Of the Shrew, American Shakespeare Center, November 24, 2010.

The Taming Of the Shrew, American Shakespeare Center, November 24, 2010.

The Taming of the Shrew is one of the hardest Shakespeare plays to perform effectively nowadays. This is because it seems inappropriate and sexist to the modern ear. In the final scene of the play, Kate gives a speech about how she owes everything to her husband. This is so politically incorrect in today's world, that to pull it off, there has to be an original theme. Each production has a different interpretation. one option is to have the production be so whacky that the plot doesn’t matter, like the 1980’s American Conservatory Theater version available on DVD. There, the company plays it as a Comedia dell'arte act.

A director could also alter it so that the plot isn’t exactly the same, maybe changing the idea to racism or anti-semitism, where you can sympathize with the actors.  One could also use a star-studded cast of actors everywhere to pull it off, which is the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton solution in the Zeffirelli film, although these are kinds of people that are not easy to find. Which ever way, if it is played straight, it will not work.Yet, this production was not altered at all. In fact, it was played exactly as written.  The play was really on its own. It would have to be directed in one of the most brilliant ways ever to find stardom.
Kate has one of the most dynamic roles in all of Shakespeare. In the beginning, she has to be so flouncy and rude that even the audience has to hate her a little bit. Then she must become so quiet and generous that the audience has to pinch themselves to believe that they’re not dreaming. She was neither of these things. She moved only slightly to either end of the scale, which made her monotonic. This meant that the core of the play was like a calm, gentle sea. The real Kate blows the waves from left to right, up and down. Untamable. Until the Petruccio arrives.
Petruccio’s character is also a judgment call. Did he act so crazily to show Kate how she behaved, or is he just in it for the money and really doesn’t care. But this Petruccio played it differently, which was that he did it for both reasons. He was in it for the money, but he was also not willing to let Kate abuse him. This meant that he laughed at her, but beyond her. She could stay in the corner alone, but she could not defy him. Otherwise he would make life so hard for her that she would have no choice but to obey him.

Lucentio also seemed like a suitor for money. He didn’t show too much interest in Bianca. He spoke of her highly, but did not seem to truly dote on her as he should. This was a new idea to me and I found his stage presence intriguing. Trenio, his man, was as flouncy as Kate wasn’t. Played by a woman, she bounced around, kicking up her legs and spinning. This, though a little over the top, was hilarious. She mocked her master, as he watched, disguised as a tutor, with no way of stopping her.

Bianca and Baptista, thier father, seemed allied against Kate. He clearly saw Bianca as she teased her sister, but always blamed Kate for whatever happened. This made it easier to believe her rages. Grumio provided comical support.

Hortensio was a shining light. His comedy was funny on a simple level, which allowed him to play Hortensio. But he also played Christopher Sly, a character in the introduction, which is usually cut. This is a serious part in the play that also provides some opportunities for comedy, and to play it with both sides of the coin in harmony, you have to be funny on a broader scale. everything cannot be a joke. At the same time it can't be too serious, as it is must mesh easily with the rest of the play.

The introduction is about a bunch of lords who find a beggar on the street, passed out. They take him and dress him in rich clothes and tell him he is a lord who has been in a coma for 17 years. They ask him if he would like to see a play, and, when he accepts, they put on The Taming of the Shrew. It is always wonderful to see the Shakespeare characters performed in a recreation of the original space. With the actors in original dress and candles on throughout the performance, the feel of the 1600’s is created. I love the pregame shows, where they compete with each other to tell the audience the most important fact. If not for the play, don’t miss Taming of the Shrew for the experience of the beautiful old Black Friars Theater. 

(More pictures to follow)