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A ‘Shrew’ for today’s #MeToo world

Friday, 09 August 2019

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An exercise in misogyny – or a love story between equals?

William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, with its archaic ideas about gender, is a particularly challenging play for contemporary directors and actors to stage in today’s #MeToo world.

After the strong-willed Petruchio marries the equally feisty Katherine – the ‘shrew’ of the play’s title – for her dowry, he proceeds to ‘tame’ her until she becomes an obedient wife.

Yet despite the play’s misogyny, Shakespeare's fierce, energetic comedy of patriarchy and power remains an enduring theatre favourite, with adaptations ranging from Cole Porter’s 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate to the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You, starring the late Heath Ledger.

Visiting American director Dr Peter Zazzali says his upcoming production with WAAPA’s 2nd Year Acting students will highlight the play’s farcical essence and soften its more questionable elements.

“We invite you to enjoy a ‘Shrew’ that, while respected, has been repositioned for the modern age,” says Dr Zazzali.

“It would be as erroneous as it would be irresponsible to straightforwardly present The Shrew without addressing its gender politics.”

The ‘Taming’ of the Shrew will be performed by WAAPA’s 2nd Year Acting students in The Studio at the Subiaco Arts Centre from 20 to 24 August at 7.30pm, with a matinee on Saturday, 24 August at 2.00pm.

Dr Zazzali describes how Shakespeare provides clues for rethinking the relationship between the outspoken Katherine and her ‘tamer’ Petruchio.

“It is important to note that Kate and Petruchio are genuinely attracted to each other, physically as well as intellectually, and theirs is a partnership of shared respect – perhaps even love,” he explains.

“They clearly engage in a ‘game’ of lust and mischievousness that extends beyond the boundaries of social acceptance. They are equally outlandish, fiercely independent, and downright lonely. In fact, they need each other.”

A director, actor, teacher and published scholar, Dr Zazzali was formerly Associate Professor of the Department of Theatre at the University of Kansas and Artistic Director of Kansas Repertory Theatre. In December, he is due to take up the position of Head of Acting at the LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore.

“While the play’s spousal abuse is unmistakable, we have chosen to lessen its impact through an interpretation that presents Katherine and Petruchio as lovers, partners, gamesters, and yes, equals.”

For all venue and performance details, please visit The Taming of the Shrew performance web page.

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