Considered William Shakespeare’s first comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew” revolves around two sisters – one avoiding marriage (Katherine), and one longing for it (Bianca) – and the lengths to which suitors will go to win their “prize.”
Theatre Arts has set the Elizabethan play in 1963 America, raising questions of gender roles, then and now. Seen through this lens, the audience may wonder if Katherine is more feminist than “shrewish.”
J. Ariadne Calvano, assistant professor of Acting and Movement, is the director. She worked with dramaturg Janna Segal to edit the script and adapt a new induction. The two answered a few questions for UofL News about their collaborative effort.
UofL News: This isn’t your typical mounting of “The Taming of the Shrew.” How is it different?
Typically, in productions I’ve seen, Kate is assumed to be a shrew. She is labeled as such in the title and therefore, is portrayed as such. We wanted to start with the text and consider what earns her the label of shrew and is it deserved? I’ve had many labels thrust upon me, some I wear proudly others make me angry, but they are all indeed labels and should be recognized as such.
UofL News: What gave you the idea of setting the play in 1963?
It all started with one phrase “Make Padua Great Again.” During the 2016 presidential campaign, a similar phrase became a major piece of then candidate Trump’s rhetoric. This begged the question, “When was the last time it was GREAT?” and, “What stopped it from being GREAT?” President Trump pointed to the 1940s and 50s as a time when America was great, citing “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do” (CNN). My research turned to the events of the early 1960s, during still-burgeoning stages of the second-wave feminist and Civil Rights movements. In our production, the play-within-the-play is set in 1963, the year Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” was published, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the year after the Black is Beautiful movement ignited at a Harlem fashion show and the cultural landscape was shifting. The play begins and ends in 2018 at a “Make Padua Great Again Rally” that serves to critically evaluate the progress America has experienced since the Civil Rights Movement.
UofL News: Can politics of the moment and movements such as #MeToo cause us to reconsider “The Taming of the Shrew?”
The politics of the moment and movements such as #MeToo and Believe all Women certainly cause us to reconsider “The Taming of the Shrew.” There’s a famous quote from playwright Bertolt Brecht, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” I think art is a complex mix of both.
Who can we expect to see in this play? Any standouts roles we should look for?
Third-year student Lauren Dobbs will be playing the part of Tronia as her MFA thesis role. Third-year student Terry Tocantins will be playing the part of Hortensio for his MFA thesis role. Two undergraduate seniors are featured in the cast, Chasidy Moore will be playing Bianca and Bailey Story will be playing Lucentio.
We’ve got a range of students from Theatre Arts graduate and undergraduate majors, non-majors and two community members, J. Scott Tatum and Anthony David Ward will also be featured in the production as well as Baptista and the Merchant, respectively.
“The Taming of the Shrew” runs Nov. 8-10 and 15-18 at The Playhouse Theatre, 1911 S. 3rd St. Click here to purchase tickets.