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Taming of the Shrew – Dramaturgical background

Here’s some information to help you “get inside” Sweet Tea’s upcoming production of The Taming of the Shrew! First, an article written by the Sweet Tea Shakespeare company dramaturg, Ruth Nelson; then, check out the links provided for additional analysis, performance reviews, and fun facts!

NOT Your Average Picnic: Sweet Tea Shakespeare Serves Up The Taming of the Shrew
By Ruth A. Nelson
(originally published in Friction Magazine July 2014)

A rich young bachelor acquires a rich headstrong beauty for his wife. It sounds like the plot of many a modern romantic comedy, doesn’t it? But what if, instead of living “Happily Ever After,” the groom showed up late – and dressed like a homeless clown – to the wedding, dragged his new bride away from the reception and through the mud to his country house, deprived her of food and sleep, and eventually humiliated her into meek submission? One might think a phone call to the police would be more appropriate than a round of applause.

Thus runs the plot of The Taming of the Shrew, one of Shakespeare’s most hotly debated plays and Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s second offering this summer. Shrew has been a source of contention for literary and theatrical analysts since its debut in the 1590s. Various productions have explored an array of interpretations to this robust comedy, from a sobering tale of cruel misogyny to a surprisingly tender – and easily misunderstood – love story. Whichever way you slice it, this story has the potential to be a difficult theatrical morsel to swallow, for audience and actors alike.

Why choose such a tricky dish for Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s summer fare? Jeremy Fiebig, Founder and Artistic Director of Sweet Tea Shakespeare, does not shy away from the play’s boldly troublesome nature: “Shrew is considered controversial because it seems to celebrate a male chauvinist perspective. The play does do this — there’s no getting around it. To me, presenting and dealing with the discomfort that emerges from a play like Shrew is important. Shrew can serve as a mirror for us. If we look into it, we may not like what we see, but we can sure learn from it.”

Besides being “important,” Shrew has proven its performative worth through sheer longevity. For over four hundred years now, audiences continue to demand, enjoy, and respond enthusiastically to the shamelessly raucous fun of this script. Between 2002 and 2012, the Royal Shakespeare Company alone put up no fewer than four productions of The Taming of the Shrew (Maddy Costa, The Guardian 2012). Disguises, rivalries, fistfights in the street, bumbling servants, razor-sharp verbal wordplay – Shrew has it all! Even with its uncomfortable subject matter, this comedy remains a popular resident of Shakespeare’s “hall of fame,” making it an apt choice for the warm, whimsical, unabashedly theatrical Sweet Tea Shakespeare.

Furthermore, at its core, Shrew is a funny story about love. Recalling Love’s Labours Lost, Sweet Tea’s first summer show (June 2014), Fiebig observes: “Both shows this season are about the extremes we go to for love and the unexpected endings that come from those pursuits.” As with every production, the goal of Sweet Tea Shakespeare is to explore authentically the rich nature of this complicated text, invite the audience into the exploration, and have a riotous amount of fun along the way. Who knows? We all might learn something – and we will definitely be better for the laughter.

TEXTUAL HISTORY
Visit the British Library online:
http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/taming.html

*Note: It is widely believed that John Fletcher wrote a sequel to Taming of the Shrew in the early 1600s, called The Woman’s Prize or The Tamer Tamed.

LITERARY ANALYSIS
Check out this article by Erin Furstnau: http://www2.cedarcrest.edu/academic/eng/lfletcher/shrew/efurstnau.htm

PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
1) Royal Shakespeare Company, 2012 – Maddy Costa (The Guardian):
http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/jan/17/taming-of-the-shrew-rsc

2) Shakespeare BASH’d, Toronto Fringe Festival, 2012 – J.A. Macfarlane: http://www.playshakespeare.com/taming-of-the-shrew/389-theatre-reviews/6071-an-excellent-evening-bash

3) Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 2010 – Barry Eitel
(Framing device written by Neil LaBute):
http://www.playshakespeare.com/taming-of-the-shrew/389-theatre-reviews/4889-labute-cannot-tame-shrew

Sweet Tea Shakespeare Announces Summer 2014 Season

Sweet Tea Shakespeare will present its 2014 Summer Season at the 1897 Poe House on the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex Grounds in Fayetteville.The season features two comedies: Love’s Labour’s Lost runs June 18-22 at 7pm nightly. The Taming of the Shrew runsJuly 16-20 at 7pm nightly.

Love’s Labour’s Lost follows four buffoonish men as they pledge to live a life free of women and dedicated to chastity and academic study — until four beautiful women, including the Princess of France, arrive on the scene. Each of the men secretly tries to woo one of the women without being caught by his fellows. Uproariously funny and tenderly poignant, Love’s Labour’s Lost is a great night under the stars.

The Taming of the Shrew follows Bianca, who wants to marry the love of her life, but her father has one rule: Bianca’s older sister, Katharina (“Kate”), must be married first. The problem? Kate will have nothing of it. Enter Petrucchio, a would-be suitor for Kate, who employs some unconventional methods of “taming” Kate and who ends up being tamed himself in the process

Performances will take place outdoors. Audiences should bring their own seating and bug spray.Picnic style food and drink, including free sweet tea, will be served. Pets and outside food are not allowed.

Each performance is preceded by half an hour of live music and preshow entertainment with plenty of opportunity for fellowship and fun.

Tickets: $12 general admission; $10 senior citizens/military; $7.50 Students; $5 Children 6-12 yrs.; Free under 5 yrs.; $5 FSU students. Purchase tickets on-line: sweetteashakespeare.com. Location: 1897 Poe House at 206 Bradford Avenue in Fayetteville.

Visit www.sweetteashakespeare.com<http://www.sweetteashakespeare.com/> for more information. Call (910) 672-1724 for tickets.

The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, within the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. The Complex consists of a regional history museum showcasing the history of southeastern North Carolina; the 1897 Poe House, a late-Victorian house museum; and historic Arsenal Park, the remains of an ordnance factory that served both the Federal and Confederate governments.Sweet Tea Shakespeare, a project of Fayetteville State University, seeks to celebrate the wonder of Shakespeare and other classic plays in beautiful environments with family-style flare by providing simple, elemental, magical theatre experiences with a nod to the diversity and heritage of southeast North Carolina.