Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Shakespeare's 'Taming Of The Shrew' Reimagined In The Era Of 'Mad Men'

Kym Pappas as Kate and Steve Froehlich as Petruchio square off in William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" now playing at Diversionary Black Box.
Adriana Zuniga-Williams
Kym Pappas as Kate and Steve Froehlich as Petruchio square off in William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" now playing at Diversionary Black Box.

InnerMission Productions tackles one of the Bard's 'problem' plays for the modern audience

Shakespeare's 'Taming Of The Shrew' Reimagined In The Era Of 'Mad Men'
Shakespeare's 'Taming Of The Shrew' Reimagined In The Era Of 'Mad Men'GUESTS: Carla Nell, director, "The Taming of the Shrew" Beth Accomando, arts and culture reporter, KPBS News

This is KPBS today addition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. While Shakespeare was one of the greatest writers of all time but he was also a man of his time and that sometimes poses problems for -- the plate the taming of the shrew present some of the most sexist dialogue ever written. KPBS Archer put a bit, no says Colin L of intermission is tackling the play from a feminist perspective. Before the interview let's hear a sample of the problems the play represents as -- played by Steve which speaks of his new wife Kate. But for my honey cake she must with me me look at the North stamp nor sterile nor fret. It will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods, Mike -- she is my house might -- Byfield my barn, my horse my box might ask you anything in here she stands, touch or whoever there will be mine action on the policy that stops my weight Carl, you are tackling taming of the shoe which is one of Shakespeare's problem, these because like a lot of his work it seems to date more than others because of the way them and are depicted so what made you want to pick this particular play? [Indiscernible] my producing partner in the company and she has always wanted to play Kate and I've always wanted to direct Shakespeare and we are known for our -- the feminist work that we do the angle that we take on a lot of things that we do. So we both just decided to tackle it and to go in headfirst. I've never directed Shakespeare before. I was in much ado about nothing here at SES you when I was going to school here getting my degree in theater that I've never directed it before so I picked one of the hardest ones and I just said I'm going to go for you so we did and I'm pleased, it is a problem play and without all the reasons why as we started the rehearsal process. So tell me what your take on it is. You've modernized in terms of the study. Annel was watching madmen and I got inspired because of their relationships that show is so blatantly gets it right to the? Of the feminist movement. I was inspired to set the play during that time period. We did have a lot of fun with the costumes. I changed a lot of the roles, the mail wolves that are service in the play I made women. I changed run-of-the-mill service of yoga to be a woman. So we are just laying with those Shakespearean roles and throwing them out the window and just because you can do that with sticks for now, you can pretty much do whatever you want to do with Shakespeare. He's not here to argue with any of us so I took some liberties with it and I've got the way it turned out. People have questions about it white I said in the 60s because it was at the beginning of the women's movement and while I don't think that the play wraps up on the way that of us modern women like at all, I do think that Shakespeare was challenging his audience to think about the relationship paradigm even during that time. Because he has two really strong smell of these and -- indicate and the challenge each other. And I do feel that they find a partnership. This a few things we found in the text and discussion -- never lays his hands on cake album he never makes cake to some, he doesn't even have sex with her, they make a joke at the very end that he's not getting any from her. So there is some respect that happens there and there's an equality that has happened before they can really be in a relationship. I think that Shakespeare was challenge that even in that time. The final monologue is just there to tackle though because she basically turns itself inside-out. We have to question why women do that. And why women still do that today. So that's kind of the taken we took on it and my actors this went along with me and what ever whatever I asked them to do. They told the story and wanted to tell. When in this context of the 1960s is Kate this budding feminist end? Absolutely. She's definitely, she's not crazy, wild out-of-control woman, she somebody who speaks her mind. She wants to choose, shows to choose pushy Spencer life with. And does a lot of different ways you can play the parts but we found Kate in the show her and Bianca have the leased lines of most of the characters. She doesn't speak that much. She's on Stage a lot but she doesn't talk a lot. When which he does talk it is meaningful and it is powerful, this is what I want for my life. She'sconstantly fighting a lot in the play. That's kind of the way that we tackled it. Just making her not be crazy. She's not really a shrew, she just has an opinion, she just was what she wants, there's nothing wrong with that. The space that you are working in is a very very intimate, this is diversionary black box. Tell me what this venue is like and how you ended up in it. We are looking to plant a first full season. We've been producing theater for 10 years in San Diego now and we are reaching out to different groups in town and I worked with diversionary the number of shows in the past and I just reached out to Matt Harding whose I believe there general manager and I told him we were looking for space and he said we are looking to renovate our rehearsal room space and turn it into more of a venue. We went and looked at it and they had already started the painting it black, black box, just slap the paint on the wall and then we had really basic lights, really basic sound in a 49 seats. It is a little intimate space and our first show that we did there had three actresses, purses little thumb a perfect venue for something like that because it is small. The surest Bret Jones because they are 17 and the script and I've made it 14 actors but it works. You can make it work. That's the thing is it is art. So you can make anything work if you make up your mind to so I think we are making great use of the space As someone who's been doing theater in San Diego for a decade, how difficult is it for someone who's not the local you Playhouse and not the globe to find venues like that and take get the word out about it? Actually difficult to find a space in San Diego to produce theater. Obviously the larger houses are, they have their seasons planned well in advance. The financial limitations of renting a space like that are insane. North Park Theatre was still the Birch, it was $2500 a day to rent that space so you have to have a whopping budget to be able to put on a show for any length of time there and the smaller venues are usually booked up too because people are clamoring for the space so it is not easy to find. You have tobe very creative and flexible. You also participated in the cynical national French festival, how has that changed the theater scene for people like you who are working on a smaller scale? The French festival I think, this is our third year and ended the first year I participated just by being an audience member and I fell in love with the whole process. I think for a smaller group's helping get the word of mouth out to audiences that we normally cannot reach is invaluable to us. The market, the free marketing, the print provides for us it is insane. We made a commitment to just participate every year in some aspect no matter what because it helps us but it also -- our arts community in a way that we've needed for a long time. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

William Shakespeare was a great writer, but some of his plays pose problems for modern audiences. One such play is "The Taming of the Shrew," in which Kate and Petruchio square off in a battle of the sexes. InnerMission Productions has just mounted a production that tackles the play from a feminist perspective.

Carla Nell, artistic director of InnerMission Productions, is known for doing plays that look to feminists issues such as "The Vagina Monologues." So when she decided to take on "The Taming of the Shrew," she knew there would be some challenges.

Take this little bit of dialogue from Petruchio about his new bride Kate:

"I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, My household stuff, my field, my barn, My horse, my ox, my ass..."

Those are tough words to serve up to a contemporary audience, and Nell fully realized that when she decided to direct the play.

Her solution was to place the play in the era of "Mad Men," which was set in the 1960s just as the women's movement was starting to pick up steam. In this context, Kate could be seen as a budding feminist dealing with chauvinistic attitudes.

InnerMission Productions' "The Taming of the Shrew" runs through Aug. 27 at Diversionary Black Box. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m.