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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: October ::
Problem Shrews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0705  Thursday, 18 October 2007

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date: 		Thursday, October 18, 2007
Subject: 	Problem Shrews

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

This past weekend, my family and I saw the opening production of the 
season at the Shakespeare Theatre, _ The Taming of the Shrew_ (directed 
by Rebecca Bayla Taichman, her first with the company, and starring 
Christopher Innvar and Charlayne Woodard as Petruchio and Kate with Lisa 
Birnbaum as Bianca and J. Fred Shiffman, Michael Milligan, and Aubrey K. 
Deeker as her suitors).

I have been deeply influenced by Emily Detmer's essay "Civilizing 
Subordination: Domestic Violence and The Taming of the Shrew" (SQ 48 
(1997): 273-94): "If readers and teachers fail to take seriously the 
experience of Petruchio's abuse, and thus identify more strongly with 
him than with Kate, they risk complicity with an ideology that 
authorizes oppression as long as it is achieved without physical violence."

Despite my problems with the play, I was prepared to set my misgivings 
aside and let this production speak for itself; after all the production 
was directed by a woman and the program essay was written by Barbara 
Hodgdon (see http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/plays/articles.aspx?&id=571).

However, from the moment Petruchio returned Kate's slap and subdued her 
by twisting her ear and holding her so that she could not move, my 
difficulties returned.

During the car ride home, in response to my query about whether it is 
still possible to stage this play in the twenty-first century, Melissa 
my older daughter tried to suggest a couple of scenarios. Her first 
suggestion was to have a totally unsympathetic Petruchio as abuser with 
the production's being an exploration of the Stockholm syndrome. Her 
second thoughts were to stage the play as a scam from start to finish. 
The idea of the scam was suggested in the closing moments of this 
production but no suggestion of a scam before this point was evident. 
She was during the ride able to fill in all the details and she 
continues to ponder his suggestion.

I continue to wonder if _Shrew_ can still successfully be staged and if 
so, how?


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