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A 1980s-Infused Battle of the Sexes
Sep 30 - Oct 29, 2011
Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square
Run Time: 2 hours and 39 minutes
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Tracy Young
She’s got an attitude…but he’s got a plan! Marriage, money and mayhem take center stage in Shakespeare’s uproarious battle of the sexes.
Marriage, money and mayhem take center stage in Shakespeare’s uproarious battle of the sexes. It’s a clash of wits and wills as fortune-hunting Petruchio drags quick-tempered Kate to the altar to become the wife she never imagined she’d be. Can love tame a shrewish heart and surprise an unbridled bachelor?
The Taming of the Shrew Playbill
Baptista, a wealthy merchant of Padua, has two daughters: Katherina and Bianca. Because of Katherina’s shrewish disposition, her father has declared that no one shall wed Bianca until Katherina has been married. Lucentio of Pisa, one of many suitors to the younger and kinder Bianca, devises a scheme in which he and Tranio (his servant) will switch clothes, and thus disguised, Lucentio will offer his services as a tutor for Bianca in order to get closer to her. At this point, enter Petruchio of Verona, in Padua to visit his friend Hortensio (another suitor to Bianca). Attracted by Katherina’s large dowry, Petruchio resolves to woo her.
To the surprise of everyone, Petruchio claims that he finds Katherina charming and pleasant. A marriage is arranged, and Petruchio immediately sets out to tame Katherina through a series of increasingly worse tricks. This involves everything from showing up late to his own wedding to constant contradictions of whatever she says. After many trying days and nights, an exhausted Katherina is indeed “tamed” into docility.
By the end of the play, Lucentio has won Bianca’s heart and Hortensio settles for a rich widow in Padua. During an evening feast for Bianca and Lucentio, Petruchio makes and wins a wager in which he proposes that he has the most obedient wife of all the men there, at which point Katherina gives Bianca a lecture on how to be a good and loving wife herself.
Reprinted from the Shakespeare Resource Center online at www.bardweb.net
What, exactly, is this thing we call “marriage”? In our current cultural climate there is much heated debate about who should be given the right to be married, but there is less cultural discourse about the nature and the dynamic of marriage itself. People are getting married all around us (we ourselves may also have tied the knot), and yet, how much do we really know about the couples we observe? The marriages we think are happy, or the ones we see as troubled? Do we really know what’s going on behind the closed doors of an intimate relationship? Even our own?
Some argue passionately that marriage should exist only between a man and a woman, and yet, what exactly IS a man or a woman? Beyond simple biology, what constitutes a man or a woman involves the adapting of and conforming to the expected gender roles of any given society. We are not born with an innate sense of these rules of behavior, we are taught them over time. Some cultures have elaborate rituals around the initiation of a child into the arena of manhood or womanhood. Gender identity is a learned behavior based on a culture’s expectations and beliefs about what that means.
Ideas about gender identity were very different in Shakespeare’s time than they are in our modern day world, and yet, part of Shakespeare’s brilliance is reflected through his penetrating insights into the nature of human beings and the ways that basic nature is expressed through the prism of gender. In The Taming of the Shrew, he has created two fascinating characters in Katharine and Petruchio, who are equally matched in intelligence, humor and vitality, and yet who are seemingly at odds throughout the play because of the cultural expectations of their gender. Throughout the play, we watch as Petruchio sets about “taming” Katharine by continually and to an ever more absurd degree, asserting his status as “the man of the house”. We watch as Katharine rages against Petruchio’s dominance of her and against the expectations society has thrust upon her as a member of the “fairer sex”. Then, in the final moments of the play, Kate delivers a highly controversial speech that, when taken at face value, appears to sublimate all of womankind under the foot of male supremacy.
What does this mean? Has Katharine really been tamed? Does she really mean the words she’s saying, or is it all a ruse at the expense of Petruchio and the other men?
The debate rages on. Still, at the heart of Shrew is that married couple, who are full of complexity and mystery. We will never know what really goes on between Petruchio and Kate in their private world, we only have Shakespeare’s keen humor and provocative observations to pique our imaginations and invite us to ponder not only what constitutes a marriage but also who we are, whether men or women, and who we choose to be in the world.
I’d like to dedicate my participation in this production to my fiancé, Michael John Hansen.
-Tracy Young, Director The Taming of the Shrew
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