One of the thrills of staging Shakespeare’s canon is the opportunity to revisit a play—exploring the work anew with world-class artists and sharing the journey of discovery with our audience. Our production of Shakespeare’s bawdy and most controversial comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, presents such an opportunity.
Taking a cue from Shakespeare’s introductory, stand-alone scenes (known as the ‘Christopher Sly Induction’), the production you will see has new, contemporary framing scenes that focus a twenty-first century lens on this sixteenth-century story. Setting the stage for a sumptuously elegant Renaissance production of The Taming of the Shrew, English guest director Josie Rourke (who brought us last season’s Twelfth Night) is working with the internationally renowned writer for stage and screen, Neil LaBute, who is imagining the newly commissioned scenes.
LaBute’s contemporary frame begins and ends the play, as well as bookending the Intermission. If you are not already familiar with his work, LaBute is one of the most challenging, penetrating and provocative stage and screen writers working today. He has what scholar Stephen Bennett refers to as “a profound fascination with the dark side of human nature…and with the politics of sexual power and desire.”
In the new frame, LaBute’s “Director,” a woman, and her lead actress playing Kate are long-term partners, both personally and professionally. The two women argue bitterly over “Kate’s” attraction to a string of young ingénues, including the actress playing Bianca. And as they, along with other company members, delve into Shakespeare’s problematic play, the women are forced to come to terms with parallel issues within their own twenty-first century relationships.
If you attend the theater with a young person, please consider their sensitivity to coarse language and sexual themes. While our twenty-first century ears may not pick up on the many bawdy references in Shakespeare’s Shrew, contemporary language and situations are more vivid.
For a full synopsis, please read The Taming of the Shrew Playgoer’s Guide