Exploring Shakespeare’s canon offers the opportunity to revisit each play—imagining the work anew with world-class artists and sharing the journey of discovery with our audience. Our production of Shakespeare’s controversial comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, presents such an opportunity. For British Director Josie Rourke, it was important to address headlong some of the issues that this sixteenth-century play poses to a contemporary audience.
Taking a cue from Shakespeare’s introductory, stand-alone scenes (known as the ‘Christopher Sly Induction’), Rourke worked with the internationally renowned writer for stage and screen, Neil LaBute, to create a new, contemporary frame for her sumptuously elegant production set in the Italian Renaissance. These new scenes—which begin and end the play as well as bookend the Intermission—focus a twenty-first century lens on this sixteenth-century story, and provide a fresh, thought-provoking theatrical experience guaranteed to make you laugh and contemplate anew Shakespeare’s play, and our own world reflected in it.
The Frame Setting: Now
A company of actors, in the midst of "tech" rehearsal, prepares for a production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, soon to open. The Director and the actress playing Kate have been partners, personally and professionally, for years. The Director confronts "Kate's" promiscuous behavior with another member of the company, the actress playing the role of Bianca. The two women argue about the nature of their partnership and their two, very different interpretations of commitment. Kate accuses the Director of using the play they are publicly rehearsing to tame her in their private relationship. As they rehearse a production set in sixteenth-century Italy, members of the cast react to issues that Shakespeare's play evokes in their twenty-first century lives.
The Taming of the Shrew Setting: Sixteenth-century Italy
In Padua, Italy, a wealthy merchant named Baptista is resolved: his lovely daughter Bianca will not be wed until her elder sister, Katherina "the curs'd," is married off. The field of frustrated suitors for Bianca's hand is crowded already with local gentlemen like Hortensio and Gremio when Lucentio arrives in town to pursue his studies. Like the others before him, he is driven to leave all learning behind after taking one look at Baptista's younger daughter. To gain access to Baptista's treasure, Hortensio dons the robes of a music teacher, while Lucentio disguises himself as a tutor, passing off his own identity to his servant Tranio. Just when it seems as though Bianca will never be free to wed, another suitor comes to town. His name is Petruchio—an adventurer undaunted by danger, and one determined to shore up his financial future through marriage...to Katherina.
After a sudden and stormy courtship, Petruchio manages to escort his "Kate" down the aisle, and sets out to tame his new wife. By outbidding Gremio, Tranio manages to convince Baptista that he (that is, his master Lucentio) is the man for Bianca. When Baptista requires assurance from the young man's father, a suitable imposter is found to play the part, and still another disguise baffles Baptista—not to mention Lucentio's real father, who arrives in Padua at just the wrong moment. In the end, true identities are revealed, three marriages are celebrated, and a wager is placed as the newlyweds roll the dice on married life.
Explore The Taming of the Shrew and learn more about the production.