An upcoming production will attempt to reconcile one of Shakespeare’s classic love stories with its reputation as a problematic and misogynistic play.
“The Taming of the Shrew” opens this Thursday at the Off Broadway Theater. The show will be a senior thesis production for Kate Pincus ’15 and Miranda Rizzolo ’15. Both Pincus and Rizzolo are using the production as a case study for their senior theses in English. Pincus is examining the tradition of adaptation as it relates to the play; Rizzolo, on the other hand, is studying the character of Kate.
“It was something that fascinated us both as English majors as well as people who wanted to make theater,” Rizzolo said.
Pincus and Rizzolo said they decided to work on the play as research for their senior theses after meeting on the set of a production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” during the spring of their sophomore year. Along with director Gabrielle Hoyt-Disick ’15, they worked on the play throughout their junior year.
Though senior thesis productions are usually reserved for Theater Studies majors, Pincus and Rizzolo received support from the English Department to use a drama production as research for their thesis. Both will continue to produce a written essay related to their work.
Pincus, Hoyt-Disick and Rizzolo all agreed that a large motivation for putting up the play was the idea that in order to understand a complex Shakespeare play, they would need to perform it. For Rizzolo, for instance, taking on the difficult role of Kate as an actress became an important part of her thesis.
Rizzolo said she thinks that audiences will be surprised by the production because of the preconceptions of the play many hold, including the belief that the character Kate is forced to be obedient to a husband she did not choose to marry. In fact, she explained, Kate and her husband develop an unexpected love for each other over the course of the play.
Pincus and Hoyt-Disick explained that the play poses a problem for many scholars because it is often taken to be misogynistic, in part because Kate is told to marry Petruchio. But Pincus, Hoyt-Disick and Rizzolo all agreed that the original text of the play allows for a reading that suggests the presence of a romantic relationship between Kate and Petruchio .
“We believe that we’ve developed a feminist reading of the play,” Hoyt-Disick said. “We’ve done so with elements that already exist in the text.”
According to Hoyt-Disick, the tension between the redeemable and problematic elements of the play makes the idea of adapting the play so appealing. She explained that the play’s popularity in having been produced in many different forms — including the film “Ten Things I Hate About You” and “Kiss Me, Kate” of Cole Porter 1913 — contradicts the beliefs of those who think the play should not be produced because of its potentially offensive nature.
Hoyt-Disick added that the production also complicates the typical characterization of Petruchio as a character emblematic of the play’s patriarchal and oppressive environment. According to Ben Symons ’15, who plays Petruchio in the production, the physical and mental abuse exchanged between the spouses is a large source of the comedy in the play. Symons noted that the play essentially depicts two characters that are both outsiders to their societies attempting to find love for one another.
Both Pincus and Hoyt-Disick said they think that the play would appeal to a Yale audience because it deals with the challenge of being a stranger in a new environment. Meanwhile, Hoyt-Disick said the play will “strike a chord with anyone who has ever been a freshman.”