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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Re: *Shrew* Productions
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0936.  Sunday, 20 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David R. Maier <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Nov 1994 19:15:26 -0800
        Subj:   Taming of the Shrew
 
(2)     From:   Diana Henderson <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Nov 1994 14:29 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0933  Re: *Shrew* Productions
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David R. Maier <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Nov 1994 19:15:26 -0800
Subject:        Taming of the Shrew
 
In response to Jim Helsinger's post, Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company, in
Portland, Oregon, mounted an ingenious production of *Shrew* last spring which
bypassed most of the problems in the play.  Jan Powell, the Tygres Heart
artistic director and director of the production, felt that none of the usual
treatments of the play adequately resolve the nettlesome issue of Kate's
closing speech.  In addition, she found that the sex-role conflict underlying
the play obscured some more interesting human elements woven into the story.
 
Consequently, her goal was to present the play in a manner which viewed each
character not as a man or a woman in relation to each other, but as people who
each had unique situations and needs.  Her desire was to explore how the
characters in their unique situations each sought to get what they wanted given
the hands they were each dealt.
 
To accomplish this goal, she cast the show all with women, not as a feminist
tract, as many nay-sayers predicted, but as a vehicle to remove the knee-jerk
response that comes from a man or a woman voicing the more provocative lines in
the text.  She set the show at Smith College in 1944 as a student production of
the time.  This was seen as consistent with Shakespeare's use of an induction
suggesting a setting of Shrew as a play within a play.
 
The production worked very well.  What was particularly startling to me was how
Petruchio became a much more compassionate person in the hands of Michele
Waldock, the actress cast in the role.  It became not a play about the mastery
and domination of a woman by a man, but rather a story of how a person of
immense passion and vigor for life came to learn how to turn her rage and
passion to the accomplishment of what she really wanted.  She learned that she
did not have to rebel against everything to get what she wanted.  Petruchio
taught her how to play the game.
 
Together Kate and Petruchio had what all of other couples at the end of the
play could only fantasize about: a truly passionate and loving relationship.
Kate's speech at the end was addressed directly and exclusively to Petruchio.
It was not played as a lecture to the masses. No one else needed to be in the
room; in fact, Kate and Petruchio were oblivious to the others in the room.
Instead of it being a speech of submission it became a HOT and spicy bit of
foreplay.  I'll stick my hand under your boot and anywhere else you want me to
stick it.
 
The production was very well received both for its innovative setting and for
the new and refreshing view of Kate and Petruchio in a truly loving
relationship without the baggage of sex roles.
 
--
David Maier

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Diana Henderson <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Nov 1994 14:29 EDT
Subject: 5.0933  Re: *Shrew* Productions
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0933  Re: *Shrew* Productions
 
Jim Helsinger writes that if one does not play Kate's final speech as one "of
growth" then the audience tends to "hate the speech, hate Kate, hate the
play"--as if these claims were inextricably linked and/or equivalent. That is
neither my experience, nor that of many who saw the Bogdanov production (a
friend of mine recently said it was perhaps the most compelling, disturbing,
and valuable night she ever spent in a theatre). Jim seems to presume a rather
narrow audience out for a "feel-good" evening, as well as presuming we hate the
character because "she" has buckled under to what are obviously larger forces
than "she" can control [I'm trying to avoid getting sidetracked onto the status
of characters, as well as remembering that at least on Shakespeare's stage
"her" sex was very much part of the fiction].  I think the audience can handle
some of the textual complexity, rather than needing to see yet one more "love
story" (as if that erased the social system and the terms/costs of such
"love").  If we can't play "Shrew" in more challenging ways successfully, I am
left wondering about the final claim that "we still have to perform it today."
Given how frequently "Shrew" is performed, the compulsion clearly goes beyond
simply keeping the Shakespearean canon alive (it's not an infrequent offering
such as "Timon" or even "Cymbeline").  Barbara Hodgdon, Tori Haring-Smith,
Barbara Freedman, and Graham Holderness (for starters) have examined the
complicated ideological work of "Shrew" on the modern stage; while I don't want
to follow Shirley Garner in quietly putting "Shrew" back on the shelf untaught,
when the only alternative posited is to make the audience happy about the
story's conclusion, I find myself wondering whether she isn't right.
 

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