Entries tagged with “Taming of the Shrew”.


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.

Joel L. Schindlbeck on the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew.

Greetings Shakes-fans.

We’re thick in rehearsals for The Taming of the Shrew, and while I’m also playing Baptista, the Haberdasher (yeah, one-liners!) and the Widow, my most difficult challenge currently is the Lord in the Induction.

Why am I challenged by it? True, he isn’t the most in-depth character in the plot. And true, he is perhaps the most fanciful and ridiculous; therefore while perhaps physically exhausting, conceptually…well, how hard is it to wrap your head around a fruitcake?

The reason I find it challenging, is that the plot of the Induction doesn’t resolve itself. My instincts are then, CUT IT! But the Artistic Director, Katherine Mayberry, chose to keep it in. Of course, I completely respect her position on everything Shakespeare related, so I was forced to turn back to the Induction and make it work. To discover why it’s here and how to make it amazing!

The first thing I noticed about the induction, after scouring the lines and finding the bits of comedy and character inside of it, was that it could be seen as a “variation on the theme” of the main plot of Taming of the Shrew.

For those of you that haven’t read the Induction, it revolves around one rather Falstaff-ian Christopher Sly who ends up drunkedly passed out on the floor of the inn. A fanciful lord, returning from hunting with his entourage enters, and upon seeing the man, decides to turn his world topsy-turvy in order to “practice on this man.” The lord feels that the best means of making this drunkard “forget himself” is to convince him that he is, in fact, a “mighty lord”, rich and well-placed, with servants at his beck and call, leagues of gold and wealth, and a beautiful lady at his side. My character then instructs his entourage and a traveling troupe of actors to follow suit and teach Mr. Sly his lesson. They do, and the bewildered Sly is then whipped up into this world of fancy, even accompanying his “lady” to a play that evening at the inn. Perhaps…the play is one “The Taming of the Shrew”, potentially a parable for Sly in conversion to being a productive and upright member of society.

While, we never see what happens to Sly after his viewing of the play, this is certainly enough for me to build a character on. Thus, I must. And there is my challenge, to deliver this character regardless of the fact that his plot is never resolved. No resolution, no denouement, no jig song at the end for him! All that build up! (Trust me, with the amount of lines that this Lord delivers in just these two scenes, the build-up is immense.)

So, I do it.

I have an acting theory that has worked for me in the concept of character building, and it is certainly applicable here. I believe that for one to truly be able to deliver their character on stage, whole-heartedly committed and convincing, one must “jump off the cliff”. We stand at a precipice with every role. To simply stand at the rock’s edge, dangling one’s toes over into the oblivion, is non-committal. It’s full of fear, and thus weakens one’s position and delivery. To truly commit to character, one must jump and know that there is no going back, regardless of how far the fall truly is or what will happen when one reaches the ground. Think of it. Flying down through the air, there is nothing but instinctual emotion and rippling sensations of wind, gravity and air beating against either side of you. You have no ground to stand on, you simply see the end growing larger and larger towards you with no retreat.

So, I believe that this is what I must do with this character, even if the “ground” is never in sight. I must jump and give in to the chaos of the character’s world, regardless of the end (or lack thereof.) My only aim, to make it a beautiful flight. Let’s try…

Brooke Heintz on the concept of a six-person Taming of the Shrew

A couple weeks ago, one of our Pigeon Creek board members approached me about our upcoming rehearsal period for Taming of the Shrew with a look on his face that made it evident he had no idea how I was going to take what he was about to say to me. I was cast to play Kate in the production back in Spring of 2011, so I’ve had months to look forward to this, and wonder about what direction we were going to take it in. There are a lot of questions every cast has to wrangle with when putting on a play that is as controversial as Shrew can be, and I was excited to find out what angle we were going to take.

What I didn’t expect was what Scott had to tell me.

“It looks like we’re going to try a six person cast.”

Now, it took a minute for those words to sink in. Maybe you can get it faster than I did. Pigeon Creek always has ‘small’ casts compared to many other theaters who produce works of Shakespeare, on account of our devotion to original practices that keeps our troupes small, often relying on doubling or tripling roles.

But by ’small’, I mean usually around 10-12.

We were looking at half that.

The challenges in such a tiny cast aren’t really in having to deal with a larger burden of roles per actor – like I said, that’s pretty par for the course for PCSC, and I’ve played as many as 6 different roles in one show before. The real problems were a little more jarring.

“This means, there are definitely going to have to be times,” Scott said, “when we’re talking to ourselves… onstage.”

That one took a longer minute to sink in.

Oh.

We didn’t have enough actors with six to cover how many people are onstage at any given time in some scenes.

Things just got way more interesting. I looked at Scott, smiled, and said I was still all in.

To be honest, I was even more excited (and more petrified, let’s not forget that) than before. This will be a first for PCSC, and hopefully set a precedent we can follow in the future for further small cast shows. In other words, we’re going to be breaking ground – probably messily.

Other troupes out there have done the same kind of thing before, so we all went to check out their techniques on the internet and came together for our first brainstorming meet last week. We sat down and went through the entire play after a read through, breaking down all the problem spots. Moments where an actor left, only to have to enter immediately as an another character to deliver the very next line. Times where a character had an extended conversation onstage… with themselves. Scenes where a character was pointed out and discussed… by another character that they also played.

It seemed like there was no way around making it silly, so we had to decide what conventions we were going to use to make it not only as entertaining as possible, but how to keep it clear to the audience what was going on. We took a hacksaw to the script and cut out lines or reassigned them to try to eliminate unnecessarily confusing moments. We came up with character concepts and easily swappable costume ideas, and talked about what to do with staging and movement to indicate two characters onstage in different places.

We talked a lot. But by the end of the night, any traces of doubt I had were eradicated.

Not only could we do this, but we could do it with style.

So here’s hoping it ends up making sense. Or on the off chance that it doesn’t, that it at least makes you guys laugh.