BWW Interview: John Willey of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at The Chocolate Church Arts Center
Shakespeare on the Kennebec, in partnership with The Chocolate Church Arts Center of Bath, will be tackling one of Shakespeare's most robust comedies this month, The Taming of the Shrew. I recently sat down with director, Jon Willey, to talk about the production and what audiences have to look forward to.
"Well, first of all, it's funny! The antics that occur are familiar to us and provoke laughter. I think we all need to have a healthy laugh at ourselves as often as possible." Willey said when asked why this particular comedy. Those unfamiliar with the play may be acquainted with some of the more modern day adaptions on stage, screen, opera, ballet, and musical theatre; perhaps the most famous adaptations being Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate and the 1967 film of the play, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. 10 Things I Hate About You, the 1999 comedy film is also loosely based on the play.
Willey spends months studying and analyzing the work he is producing, in order to, "...seek a workable and playable understanding of the plot and the story." Willey went on to say that, "Each and every statement is meant to communicate something to an audience that can be put into action. Even those lovely poetical passages filled with imagery that are clearly meant to tease the ear have a context and something is happening to that character or another character(s)."
When asked whether some of the themes are antiquated and how they relate to today's society, Willey stated that, "I was intrigued, and took on the challenge of looking deeply into the themes of this script and was delighted at what I found. The play is presented as a play within a play yet that theme is not revisited after act one. For all the tantrums Kate throws, Petruchio is more hot-headed than she. There is not one shrew here but several and all are not tamed. The contradictions go on throughout the play until one finally realizes the entire show is a joke upon the audience itself. Kate's final monologue, one of the most criticized parts of the show has double and even triple meaning and it is up to the director and cast to bring those out to their audience for their full enjoyment. "
Shakespeare can often times feel inaccessible to the public, the language barriers, or even the cost of going to the theatre itself can present a challenge, but Willey explained that, "These characters and themes are ageless and no matter how advanced or enlightened and modern we become, we are all still human and experience the range of human emotions." He went on to say that, "Our goals are to make Shakespeare accessible, enjoyable and affordable to as many people as we can. Our ideal is to have all productions free or by donation only. To date, SotK has taken no profit from any show we have produced. We have co-partnered with the Chocolate Church in Bath for our last two shows and hopefully more in the future."
With themes of love and the human heart, The Taming of the Shrew, by Shakespeare on the Kennebec, is sure to warm the heart and soul, as the tantalizing costumes, gorgeous set, and a large cast of local actors who wend their way through Shakespeare's various meters and rhythms create a visual smorgasbord of delight.
Photos courtesy Chocolate Church Arts
Taming of the Shrew runs from May 5- 13, 2017 at Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., Bath www.chocolatechurcharts.org 207-442-8455