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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: December ::
*Shrew* and Performance
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 400. Tuesday, 22 December 1992.
 
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Dec 1992 19:38:18 -0500
Subject:        Shrew & Performance
 
        I believe the person who asked about the Central Park Shrew with
Tracy Ullman & Morgan Freeman was Jon Enriquez--but I am new to SHAKSPER
and may be misremembering... Nevertheless--I did see that production, and
it was appalling. Forget any hope that a strong comic actress and a black
Petruchio might make a difference. Or that in 1990, the myth of the cowboy
and the "wild west" might be treated with some irony (uppity cowgirl and
19th-century black man discover their shared oppression in white man's
America?). Rather, the heroic "Marlboro Man Mystique" was invoked endlessly
(visual imagery a la John Ford) to canonize an unabashedly masculinist
Shrew...a glorified taming of the wench and taming of the WEST (and let us
not forget that that Manifest Destiny rhetoric gendered the frontier
female). Ullman's Kate was a child of a larger growth; the director (A.J.
Antoon, who died recently) showed little interest in her besides the
rollicking good fun of putting her in her place, and Freeman's Petruchio
was a genial "Father-knows-best" type, "fortunately" able to overpower her
physically until she sees the light. One token gesture of irony at the
finale was not enough to undo the three-hour spectacle of a woman "tamed"
and loving it. The critics, interestingly, loved it (including the
pseudo-left Village Voice) and gave its gender politics nary a mention!
 
    Yes, I am disturbed by the present proliferation of the "shrew-taming
folk-tale type" (Cf. Jan Brunvand), not only on stage or in the classroom,
but in our oral and material culture...MTV videos and S&M fashion chic
notwithstanding...
 
     On viewing the "Kiss Me Petruchio" video (interviews with M.Streep and
R. Julia interspersed with scenes from the '78 NYSF production), I was
astounded to see that Antoon's production copied, in surprising detail, the
staging and business of the '78 production--as if, rather, than ask new
questions, the director was simply content to recycle old answers (as
Barbara Hodgdon put it recently, "old readings of old plays..")
 
        Best to all SHAKSPERians...
        Jean Peterson
 

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