April 25, 2005
An Acceptable 'Shrew'
Yesterday I went to see the honors program's depiction of Shakespeare's work to see what an acceptable version of this play was. As you might recall, when a certain Dr. C's tenure wasn't renewed, part of the hubub revolved around his rendition of TTOTS, in which females played the male roles while males played the female roles. Personally, I thought it was an ingenius way to deal with the difficult subject matter. It made the play seem more playful and in the true spirit of Shakespeare's work, in which we often see a man playing a woman playing a man, etc. As for the actual situation of the termination Dr. C's employment, I have no comment on how it all went down. But the man knew how to put on a play.
So off I went to check out what an "acceptable" version of this play would look like. As it turned out, it was set in the 1930s, for no apparent reason. The set, costumes, and music, all had the 1930s feel, but what did that feel have to do with this play? Not much, I'm afraid.
As the play began (the story has a play within a play), the introductory scene was painful to watch. One of the key actors simply didn't have the training/charisma/annunciation he needed to set the scene - it was like listening to a bunch of words that didn't necessarily have anything to do with each other.. just an endless flow that I hoped would end quickly. Thankfully, it did.
Once into the "real" play, it started getting better. Kate was an able enough Kate, and Petrucchio was.... well, he was good, but he seemed rather a wussy guy to be playing Petrucchio. The rest of the cast did well enough too. Overall, I guess it was enjoyable, but it lacked something: not enough controversy (consider the play) or dealing with the interesting themes, and not enough pizzaz. Not to say it was lackluster - it just didn't seem to be enough.
So in summary, an acceptable TTOTS is a less interesting one.
Oh by the way, someone needs to tell them where the thermostat is located. The entire audience were using their programs to fan their faces in the theatre because it was stinking HOT in there.
Posted by wendytime at April 25, 2005 10:18 AM
A few comments in the 'honors program's' defense (as a former director):
1. nobody's been trained in theatre at any level other than high school (hence the sucky acting and unimaginative directing - we did our best)
2. the play was most likely set in the 1930s because those are the costumes we have in the storage locker (which I purchased for our productions of Gifts of the Magi, the Mousetrap, and The Oresteia). When I was director, our budget for the entire semester (usually two different shows) was $1000. It buys nothing!
3. At the end of the day, TT is an academic exercise, not a production company. The whole thing started because a bunch of us eggheads realized that Shakespeare wasn't meant to be read, but to be acted. :) We just invite everyone else because people started asking to come.
At least those things were true in my day...
Haha. I KNEW you'd respond! Yes, I pretty much had guessed all of these things. For me, the interest lay in how the play was put on (the tone of the play, etc.) because so many people had reacted against the previous production of the play.
Even though I am fundamentally against the honors program itself :), I do admire that they make an effort to put on the plays.
But did you see The Importance of Being Earnest in Spring 2001? I loved that Algernon!
No, I never saw any of their productions when I was a student. Actually, I remember the play being advertised. I like Wilde, but come on, The Importance of Being Earnest is perhaps THE most performed play in high schools and colleges. At least it seems that way to me. I've been Earnested out.
So what was with the Algernon?
I was Algy, that's what!
I'd never seen the play myself before doing it, so I didn't know it was so ubiquitous. Though I think it was a good thing we did it before the movie with Colin Firth et al came out. I don't know why a group on campus did Earnest again last semester. I heard they set it in the American South or something. Lindsay kept ours set in the period.
You were Algernon? I never took you for a man of the stage!
Oh, you missed out. Actually, the rehearsals were much more fun than the actual performances because when Jon forgot a line he let loose a string of vulgarities enough to make a sailer blush (which shocked the poor, sweet freshman girl who played his love interest). Priceless!