When I viewed TAMING OF THE SHREW (twice, the first week of the run, I enjoyed myself that much!), I noticed there were no Director's Notes. Guess there were reasons for that: it's a lot of work mounting Shakespeare when you're the director, set designer and production manager! At any rate, the lively, raucous, and somewhat bawdy version of the play elicited some controversy apparently, and the next week, Director's Notes were forthcoming. I like them a lot, so here for your reading pleasure and edification...
The Taming of the Shrew Director’s Notes
Let’s Talk About Sexes
Someone said to me recently that they didn’t think this play has any relevance to a contemporary audience; however, I think it has a tremendous amount of relevance for those who would care to look a little closer. Firstly, it reminds us that we are, in fact, still quite hung up on the whole gender issue, even though we would like to think otherwise. For, if we were truly past the power struggle between men and women, we would not see in this play a man dominating a woman, but rather one person helping another person to discover the secret power of surrender—which leads me to my second point: this play reveals that we despise surrender. To us, surrender is weakness; we consider it tantamount to failure and defeat. But I am reminded of a certain Jewish carpenter some 2,000 years ago who unleashed the greatest power in the universe by choosing surrender. And I believe that Katharina discovers this power to some extent, as she is the only person in the play who truly transforms and is truly joyful by the end. And isn’t that what we all want? Transformation that leads to joy? Many people think that Katharina is a free spirit at the beginning of the play and in bondage at the end; however, I submit to you that it is quite the opposite. At the beginning of the play she is a slave to her own petulance; so concerned about the flawed behaviour in others that she fails to recognize her own shortcomings. At the end of the play she chooses to surrender, and reaps the delicious rewards of love, freedom and joy. So, I encourage you to give less attention to Petruchio’s boorishness and more to Katharina’s powerful transformation. In other words, have fun...and look a little closer.
Say NO to the Bawdy(?)
Bawdy: a term used to describe coarse, low, sexual humour or dialogue.
Shakespeare’s plays are rife with bawdiness; a fact which many directors in the past have, in my humble opinion, either failed to see (which is laziness) or chosen to ignore (which is artistically irresponsible). Like it or lump it, it’s a part of the text and was intended to be given no less attention than the other parts. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, I implore you to ask yourself why it’s alright for us to accept the mountain of sex and violence in the TV and movies that we watch but reject the mole hill we will see here. This question aside, let me assure you that I am not suggesting that we all start talking dirty and smacking each other around; however, I do think that, if we in Christendom weren’t quite so uptight about sex, we may in fact be less inclined to fall sexually and more inclined to talk openly about the issues, thereby leading to a healthier understanding about our sexuality. At the very least, whether you love or despise the characters in this play, I hope you will have grace for the actors and for yourself, and that instead of imbibing the icky cough-syrup of solemnity you will apply the relieving balm of laughter.
Trinity Western University
In the face some well-meaning but I'm sure at times rather distressing controversy, I wonder if it was an encouragement to hear these words of praise I passed along from Brian Doerksen?...
"Hey, after you recommendation we went to see the TWU production of ‘Taming of the Shrew’ . . .I think my first Shakespeare piece I have seen since high school . . .it took a bit of time to ‘change gears’ due to language . .but we LOVED IT!! We laughed so much . . .a great night at the theatre . . and only 25 minutes from home!"