Feature: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at Curtain Call

Shakespeare on the Green is back!

By: Jul. 09, 2024
Feature: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at Curtain Call
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Feature: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at Curtain Call

Almost every county has at least one summer outdoor Shakespeare performance, but there is only one that gives audiences the closest experience to see Shakespeare performed at The Globe just outside London. Drum roll, please! It’s Curtain Call’s 21st Shakespearean play on the beautiful grounds of Sterling Farms in Stamford.

This year’s show is The Taming of the Shrew directed by Curtain Call veteran Kyle Runestad.

We know what you’re thinking. Why is this play still being performed in the 21st century when we are still fighting for women’s rights all over the world?

For starters, it’s still one of the Bard’s most popular plays and it’s being performed almost everywhere a lot more frequently than Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida, and Timon of Athens combined. Runestad explains, “We try to think of what show an audience would like to see and actors would like to be a part of. We try to balance tragedies and comedies and try to space out the most famous of the plays. But most of the time we choose whatever happens to strike our fancy at the moment.” Curtain Call’s Executive Director Lou Ursone laughs that they pick the show “just this side of throwing darts,” but in reality, “as with my entire season, I pick the shows...of course with input from director. As much as I would love to do the entire Shakespeare catalog, I need to be market driven. We need to do titles that people will come see...either they're familiar with the title or the title sounds like fun.”

Curtain Call first produced this show almost 20 years ago, but now society is at a time when gender fluidity is more open people self-identify with more pronouns than two decades ago. (It’s ironic that in Shakespeare’s day, women weren’t even allowed on stage.) As for the part about Kate’s being forced to marry a man who psychologically abuses her, well, you have to put things in their proper context. It’s hard to imagine, but Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew with a more progressive view of marriage during the 1590s. If you read earlier works by other playwrights and authors, you’ll understand this. And the reality is that many women still must conform to their traditional roles. Think about royal women today walking behind their husbands. But Runestad is focusing on the comedic elements of the play instead of the problematic parts. He also promises that there will be a twist at the ending, so you must come and see it for yourself.

All of Runestad’s theater training was an actor, starting in first grade. He first did Shakespeare while he was in college in the 1990s. He performed in Much Ado About Nothing during SOTG’s second season and performed in nearly every Shakespearean play since then until the original director, Peter Barbieri, decided to step down. “I had been thinking about trying directing for a while, and Lou and Peter decided to take a chance on me,” he says. “I guess I must be doing something right, because I have been directing SOTG ever since.”

Every director who takes on Shakespeare faces challenges because of the language that sounds stilted by today’s standards. “What I try to help our actors focus on is that it isn't the flowery language that has made Shakespeare timeless, it is how he told the stories,” says Runestad. “I would much rather watch a production of Shakespeare where there is a genuine connection between the characters instead of one where everyone sounds pretty speaking the language. It sounds like a simple idea, but it can be challenging to do. I once heard a well-respected director say that the role of a director is to create an environment where the actors feel comfortable in letting their best performance shine out. I have always tried to follow that philosophy.”

That is great advice. This writer saw A Comedy of Errors at The Globe around the time that SOTG was getting started. It starred two actors who had very noticeable Italian accents, but they were so amazingly comfortable with Shakespeare’s language that they sounded like naturals. Comedian John Cleese played Petruchio in the BBC production in 1980. As one of the world’s top comedians, he treated the script casually as if he were doing Monty Python, even with the feather of his outlandish hat flopping up and down. Shakespeare will always be revered as one of the world’s greatest playwrights, but remember, he wrote for the common person, not for the elite who were educated.

It’s tempting to try to find something fresh in material that is so well-known, but SOTG usually tries to remain faithful to the play. An exception was Othello, which was performed in modern attire. Runestad explains, “It seems a bit counterintuitive, but one of the things that make our productions different is that we don't change as many things. We use traditional costumes, and we don't change the setting of the show. The biggest way we change the show is by changing the gender of some of the characters. We have an abundance of talented women in this area and not many female roles, so I try to find ways to take advantage of the talent we have. I always try to maintain the essence of the character, even if the gender changes. I think by keeping things mostly traditional it actually makes things easier to understand. I take great pride in the fact that someone has come up to me after every show I have directed to tell me that they understood the show more than they thought they would.”

Kevin Thompson stars as Petruchio and Kaite Laurie as Katherine. The rest of the cast members are Roderick Adams (Tailor), Sergio Arguelles Catare (Lucentio), Samantha Bauer (Bianca), Jim Chiles (Pedant), Bruce Crilly (Gremio), Miranda Falk (Biondello), John Kliewe (Curtis), Rachel Lese (Natalie), Ashley Marcinek (Tranio), Christian Miller (Baptista), Rob Nichols (Vincentio), Josh Pickel  (Grumio), David Rich (Haberdasher and Joseph), David Shear (Philip), Seth Von Schmidt  (Peter), Erin Wallace (Widow), and Robert Whitney (Hortensio).

The Taming of the Shrew runs at 7:30 p.m. on July 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21. The park opens for searing at 6:00 p.m. Assume that the show will go on, but you can call 203-461-6538 if the weather changes. Performances are free, but contributions of $20.00 for adults and $10 for kids and seniors are most welcome to keep Curtain Call able to provide the city’s best theatre and only continuously operating theater all year round. A limited amount of reserved seating is available each night at $25 per person. Bring your blankets and portable chairs. You are not allowed to bring alcoholic beverages into the park, but wine, beer, soda, and pre-packaged meals will be available on site provided by The Stillery Restaurant & Bar, Curtain Call’s onsite restaurant partner. Or come early for dinner at the charming Royal Green Restaurant. You may also order meals in advance by calling 203-998-7225. Visit www.curtaincallinc.com for more information about upcoming productions.




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