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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Re: *Shrew* Productions
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0956.  Sunday, 27 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Richard C. Jones III <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Nov 1994 12:02:30 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0952 *Shrew* Productions
 
(2)     From:   John E. Perry <
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        Date:   Saturday, 26 Nov 1994 02:48:25 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0952  *Shrew* Productions
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard C. Jones III <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Nov 1994 12:02:30 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 5.0952 *Shrew* Productions
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0952 *Shrew* Productions
 
The discussion of *Shrew* productions is interesting at least in part for what
it reveals about us, as well as what it may reveal about the play. Assertions
that "the only way" it can be played appropriately today is by employing a
particular production strategy reveal either a profound lack of imagination or
an insistence that a production not only not offend widely held socio-political
beliefs, but indeed that it must actively present an agenda of its own.  There
are those, of course, who argue that not to be political is to be political,
etc., etc.  They have a right to their belief, which has, IMHO, some merit --
but I beg to demur on this particular issue.
 
I have seen four *Shrews* that I remember, perhaps suppressing the memory of a
couple others.  Two worked, one was OK, one failed.  All things considered,
that's not bad.  (I wish I could say the same for Chekhov or Brecht!).  What
worked was a decision to allow the play to be a comedy, with a few
acknowledgments of late 20th-century sensibilities.  The most recent, and
probably best, production I've seen was at UMKC a few weeks ago.  The treatment
was very physical, drawing in large part on the commedia tradition.  The
starvation scene was played for laughs, complete with big takes from Kate as
she almost but not quite gets a nibble.  Had the play up to this point been
presented as naturalism, the scene wouldn't have come close to working.  But as
it was, it fit right in.  We can laugh at the situation because it is so
clearly exaggerated that we can retain our distance.  Our collective response
is not, then, that P is abusing K, any more than we feel Lucy is abusing
Charlie Brown when she yanks that football away at the last moment, sending him
crashing onto his back yet again. These are actors playing roles, folks (and
this production plays up the Sly scenes, underlining the fictive element of the
saga of Kate and Petruchio) -- it ain't real!
 
Subsequently, in the Vincentio scene, Kate treats Petruchio as if he were a
small child: she is not at all cowed by his bullying -- rather, she clearly
knows that the sun is the sun, Vincentio is an old man, etc. She's just willing
to say otherwise so she can continue her journey.  But she does so out of
exasperation, not trepidation, and Petruchio is clearly satisfied with the
words, caring little that they bear little relationship to the delivery.
 
Finally, of course, comes the ultimate minefield: the last scene.  Kate's long
speech sounds a little rehearsed, almost as if it were pre-arranged. It does
not ring completely false, but there is enough of an undercurrent of sarcasm in
Kate's voice that we smile with her as she dupes her listeners... all but
Petruchio, who joins us in smiling with her, not at her.  When she hops into
his arms to be carried off to bed, it is a moment of real sexual electricity,
not the junior-high cooing of Bianca and company.  Finally, after the exit and
the tag lines, Petruchio comes running back on stage, scoops up the hat Kate
had discarded at his insistence, plays a knowing, "call me henpecked if you
like but this is going to be worth it" take to the audience, and scurries off
with his peace offering.
 
Is there a message here?  Maybe.  But if there is, it's more off a recognition
that animated, lusty men *and* women make better lovers and spouses than
milquetoasts like Bianca and Lucentio.  K and P are clearly the most bold,
intelligent, sexy people in the production.  It is simply "right" that they be
together.  With a stretch, we could perhaps argue that K (and perhaps P)
recognize the need to operate within society while still maintaining a strong
grip on individual prerogatives.  But probably not...
 
A playscript illuminated in production...  Acting style affecting audience
response... Playing a comedy as a comedy instead of a socio-political
disquisition....  Imagine!
 
Rick Jones

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John E. Perry <
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Date:           Saturday, 26 Nov 1994 02:48:25 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0952  *Shrew* Productions
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0952  *Shrew* Productions
 
>From:           David R. Maier <
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>Shirley Kagan appears to chide the Tygres Heart production of *Shrew*:
 
>"Why do we need a sugar coating or a happy, creative ending?  Lets see a
>'Shrew' that upsettingly but realistically tells it like it still is for many
>women in the world."
 
>My response is that hers is exactly the response that was intended from the
>prodution.  Isn't it upsetting that the only way to play the text truly and
>have a happy ending is to cast it with an all-female cast? This production
>simply would not have worked with the roles played with men and women. This is
>because of what we as people, not just men, but both men and women, do when
>they see the roles and hear the text performed with men.
 
I don't believe this at all. I realize many people cannot view anything
uncolored by their own attitudes, but many of us can, to some extent. Indeed, I
distinctly recall one of the teachers in this forum commenting with disbelief
that most of her students defended Petruchio's actions after they read the
play.
 
Most of us, I think, are able to view *Shrew* in its own context, and recognize
that Kate starts out as a severely disturbed young woman in serious need of
help, which she gets from Petruchio. We all recoil with horror at the world
they lived in, but when we _read_ the play, most of us see the love developing
between Kate and Petruchio. Unfortunately, the people tasked with presenting
the play don't feel able to trust us iggoramusses out here to understand what's
going on without the sort of ugly distortion Drs. Maier and Kagan are
discussing.
 
        john perry
 

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