Entries tagged with “Petruchio”.


Kyle Walker (Petruchio / Page) on Character Interpretation

‘Tis the Mind…

There always seems to be one line that comes to define my interpretation of a character. For Petruchio this one line has come to define not only the character but my view on the play itself:

For ‘tis the mind that makes the body rich,
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,
So honor peereth in the meanest habit.

While The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy full of slapstick humor and mistaken identities, I also think it asks the question “What is it that defines who you are?” The Induction scenes are a clear demonstration of this notion. Does Christopher Sly, in his mind, truly become a lord? Or is it just a dream? Or has he dreamt till now?

Petruchio constantly plays with this idea. He bends the truth, lies, and manipulates people to his own enjoyment. He knows exactly who he is and enjoys coaxing people into questioning themselves. He believes marriage is a complete sham and love is just an excuse. He comes to Padua not to find love but to “wive it wealthily.” He is only in it for the money; the wife is merely a place holder, a technicality.

All of this changes when he meets Kate.

The plan was simple. Attain the father’s consent. Cunningly keep Kate off-guard. Trick her into marrying him. Collect the dowry. Live happily ever after with his money. But as it turns out, he mistakenly falls in love with her. His entire reality is thrown into chaos. The way in which he defined himself has been questioned. He has caught himself in his own game.

But it’s ok.

His honor, his mind, his true self, can peer through the darkest clouds, right? Or perhaps the character that he has been playing is now playing him. If a kind, thoughtful, and caring man pretends to be a womanizing, arrogant, and chauvinistic man and if he plays that character long enough, does he become that man? Can someone become lost in a character? Are we defined by what we do? Or who we think we are?

Strangely enough I think this makes Petruchio love Kate even more. His game has always been to confuse, startle, and shock people. Kate joins him in his game and she does exactly what he’s been doing to her and everyone else. She understands him; even though now, he might not fully understand himself. A woman who can do that to Petruchio has truly won “the burden of his wooing dance.”

Brooke Heintz (Katherina / Biondello) on playing the Shrew.

The Taming of the Shrew is one of those shows where we feel as if we are going to have a number of audience members coming to watch the finished product who already have very strong opinions on the content of the play. Like The Merchant of the Venice, which gets looked at over and over in the light of whether the play is anti-Semitic, etc., Taming of the Shrew is equally considered controversial when examined through a modern perspective on the relationship between the sexes. Many people who are familiar with the play have had to face the difficulties of our present day discomfort with a show that ends with a woman bending knee to her husband and proclaiming his right of dominance. The fact that the play was written ‘in the past when things were different’ shouldn’t be a throwaway excuse for that level of discomfort, and audiences shouldn’t be expected just to accept that this is a play about people who thought in vastly different ways than we do now. Pigeon Creek especially prides itself on making characters and story lines accessible to audiences now, and I think taking that kind of approach to it would have precisely the opposite effect.

Going into this production, I was interested to see how the rest of my cast wanted to approach this. It’s become almost standard fare nowadays to insert some kind of gimmick when staging the play, to either highlight its themes as misogynistic, or to find ways to subvert Kate’s final speech in its entirety, such as throwing in a wink at the end of the monologue to show the audience that she didn’t mean a word of it. Honestly, I’ve always found these things to be the less interesting choices, and unnecessary pandering to the audience’s need to feel ‘comfortable’ with how things tie together.

Kyle Walker (Petruchio) and I have had many conversations about what it is that Petruchio and Kate end up getting out of this relationship, and how it changes both of them, which I think is part of the key to accepting the play for how it’s written, rather than attempting to impose a modern lens on it. It’s important to look at what kind of characters Petruchio and Kate both are – both of them make extravagant decisions that seem out of place in any sort of logical world, and both seem to possess a natural streak of sadistic humor. As far as Kate goes, her temperament is something that’s so far beyond how any normal person should behave (male or female), that trying to defend her too much turns into making excuses for her unacceptable behavior. Even with the psychological impact of not having a mother figure around, of dealing with the favoritism shown to her sister, etc., she still desires to rule over everyone and everything, and doesn’t understand what it means to bend for anyone. Her actions are incredibly self-centered, and she has only one tactic for getting what she wants: behaving as a shrew. Since no one has proven a match for her tongue or violent actions, it’s managed to work for her just fine – until Petruchio comes along. Not only does he prove her equal in wits, and possess the strength to keep an upper hand on her in terms of her many physical threats to his well-being, but because of this, she’s forced to learn new ways to get what she wants that are equally satisfying once she learns to take ownership of them.

Playing Petruchio’s own game with him and taking it a ridiculous degree is her own way of rebelling and maintaining her sense of who she is, and he doesn’t mind when she does it this way. It isn’t a particularly healthy arrangement, but neither character is particularly emotionally stable at the onset, either. Petruchio doesn’t want to extinguish the fire that makes her Kate – he encourages her when she’s ready to fight the widow at the final banquet, rather than scolding her, and finds the whole situation humorous. The very nature of ordering Kate to give the other women a verbal lashing proves this as well. He doesn’t desire a woman who is meek – but he doesn’t want his marriage to be a constant state of war either, and through getting her to adamantly defend defined gender roles in public, Kate’s granted an armor for her pride that allows her to renounce her old tactics and adopt more socially acceptable ways of getting what she wants. There’s still something discomfiting in this, but there can be, just as there can be something unsettling in The Merchant of Venice that leaves the audience uncertain of how to feel about the characters in the play and their own emotions about what just happened. That sense of uncertainty leaves an audience thinking, rather than just laughing at Kate having ‘pulled one over’ on Petruchio at the end, which I personally think is a much more provocative and meaningful use of the play.

Of course, in the end, our audiences may entirely disagree. Either way, I’m very interested and nervous to see how audiences will react to seeing the play handled in what we considered to be a ‘straight’ fashion. And I hope it leaves you all with something to think about!

Kyle Walker’s Unlikely Muses as Petruchio

When I first began to develop the character of Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, a strange but clarifying discovery was made. The way in which I wanted to play the character reminded me of two very strange sources: Andy Kaufman and Edward Blake, the Comedian (a comic book character from the graphic novel Watchmen. )

Andy Kaufman’s humor was based on human emotion. It wasn’t always funny. He reveled in the control of human emotions. He could make (and loved to make) the audience feel whatever he liked. It didn’t matter if it was joy, laughter, hatred, embarrassment, remorse, fear, or anything. He enjoyed the reversal. He enjoyed the human reaction. And that is what Petruchio is.

There are many times in the play in which Petruchio is on stage but says nothing for pages. He just stands there and watches as the mistaken identity/wooing/suitor subplot plays out. He enjoys it. He enjoys watching the ridiculous farce of life. It’s just a game to him: a game of human reaction that he can control, enjoy, and get lost in.

In Watchman, the Comedian is a charismatic womanizing, self-centered, arrogant, vigilante. One could see right there where I could find a muse for Petruchio. But more importantly, the Comedian saw the world for what it is; a joke. Instead of being a part of that joke, he chooses to be a parody of it. When Petruchio sees how his world works (e.g.: father’s deciding who should marry who, suitors lying and cheating to get a wife, love being pushed aside, etc…), he chooses to become a satire of what he sees.

It is very important to me and the character that Petruchio truly does love Kate. At first it is simply a game. He tricks the girl, he gets he money. That game changes as soon as he meets Kate. So, Petruchio puts on a character that is boisterous, loud, arrogant, and flamboyant, to fit into the world of Padua. But also to make a joke of it. To laugh at it behind its back. To control it. When Kate discovers that joke and can laugh at it with him, that is when he falls in love.