TAMING OF THE SHREW
We workshopped “Taming of the Shrew” as a cast with the intention of directly addressing the violence and anti-feminism in the text. Three actors played most of the roles, with remaining roles played by an actor manipulating a wrestling dummy. This wrestling dummy played the roles of the servants, who could then be beaten by Petruchio as is stated in the text. The Widow was played by an additional performer. She is an outsider. She is also drunk. By having fewer actors play all the roles, the relationships in the play gained clarity; we understand the violent scene between Bianca and Katherina differently when one actress plays both roles. In addition, when Christopher Sly also plays the role of Petruchio, the purpose of the Prologue, often cut from the play, becomes more clear.
In many Shakespeare comedies, characters play at roles, disguising themselves as other kinds of people. In our “Taming of the Shrew,” we, as actors, were literally wearing many hats in order to play different roles in the play; this changes the way we see the characters when they do the same thing. Some things however we did not try to change. No one played a character different from their own gender. The lead actress in our play, Tamara Tomakili, is Black and thus all the characters she played were Black. We didn’t make any explicit comment on race in our production, nor did we try to do ‘race-blind’ casting, as if race is not an issue in a play about violence. The final monologue Tamara gives as Katherina was underscored by an instrumental track of “Formation” by Beyoncé. The men onstage danced as she spoke. At the end, Petruchio and Katherina left together, as it is in the script. The meaning of the text was not, in the end, changed by our innovations.