Bates College theater department offers 'Taming of the Shrew'

'Taming of the Shrew'

One of William Shakespeare’s first comedies, The Taming of the Shrew is the major fall production of the Bates College theater department.

Directed by Professor of Theater Paul Kuritz, “The Taming of the Shrew” will be performed at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 2-5, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, in Gannett Theater, Pettigrew Hall, Andrews Road. Admission is $6 for the general public and $3 for Bates faculty and staff, senior citizens and non-Bates students.

For reservations and more information, please call the box office at 207-786-6161 or visit its Web site.

A lighthearted romantic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew was written in London around 1592, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Set in Italy, the play comments on marriage and the duties of women to their husbands.

The plot deals with the loves and marriages of two sisters, the mild-tempered Bianca and the unmanageable Katherina, as they and their lovers deal with arranged marriages, money, love and the “taming” of a scolding wife. The play has inspired several adaptations including the Tony Award-winning Cole Porter musical “Kiss Me, Kate” and the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You.”

'Taming of the Shrew'

“We had not produced a Shakespearean comedy in a while, so I selected ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ ” says Kuritz. “The subject of marriage has been in the news quite a bit and I thought Shakespeare’s take on the institution should be considered.”

Kuritz’s approach to the comedy breaks from convention. “A traditional interpretation would have this arc: Wild, untamed, ‘manly’ Kate is broken by Petruchio into a submissive, passive wife,” he explains. “Kate is the character who changes most in this interpretation.”

But, says Kuritz, “I have read and re-read the play with another point of view. What if Kate is at the beginning of the play as she is at the end? What if she doesn’t change at all? Who then changes, since someone must change in the course of a play?

“I believe Petruchio is the one who changes. In fact, I believe Kate tames him.”

Also of interest is the visual setting of the production, created by costume and set designer B. Christine McDowell, assistant professor of theater. Setting the production in Italy during the late 1950s-early 1960s provides a context in which “Kate can be more of a rebel than a harpie,” she explains. “We liked the idea of playing up the cultural shifts that happened at that time when ‘good’ girls wanted to be Sandra Dee and ‘bad’ girls wanted to be rock ‘n’ rollers or bohemians.”

With the play originally set in Padua, “we also liked to play on the conservatism of Italy at that time,” she adds.

'Taming of the Shrew'

New to Bates this academic year, McDowell has been a freelance designer for New York and regional theatres and has taught theatrical design at SUNY New Paltz, The College of William and Mary and the University of South Florida.

The cast of the Bates production includes Molly Joyce Marquand, a senior from Garrison, N.Y., as Bianca; junior Kym Bell of Carver, Mass., playing Katherina; Maggie McCally, a sophomore from Westport, Conn., as their father, Baptista Minola; Joe Williams, a first-year student from Washington, D.C., playing Bianca’s primary suitor, Lucentio; sophomore Stephen Lattanzi of Winchester, Mass., portraying Petruchio; and Dane Cunningham, a junior from Topsfield, Mass., as Hortensio.

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