This classic comedy was characterized by an eclectic, post-modern
sensibility based on two conceptual ideas. The first dealt with the play as
a complex, layered piece of metatheatre; the second consisted of
gender experiments in casting. These concepts were justified by the
non-gender-specific theatrical tradition of Shakespeare's age as well as the
play-within-the-play structure of the work. At the heart of this conceptual
mix was the premise that there is more to the play than the traditional
"war between the sexes" interpretation might suggest; this production sought
to discover those "extras" by highlighting the play's metatheatrical
structure with a special treatment of the Induction (a "prologue" to
the play, which is often omitted).
the Induction, a drunken man, Christopher Sly, wanders out of a bar, chased
by a barmaid demanding payment for some broken items. While she goes to get
the police, he falls asleep and is discovered by a Lord out hunting. The
Lord decides to play a trick on Sly and convince him that he's been
unconscious for fifteen years, dreaming the life that he has come to
know as his own, and that in reality, Sly is a Lord married to a beautiful
lady (which turns out to be a man in a dress as part of the prank). While
they take Sly back to the palace to clean him up, the Lord hires a group of
traveling actors to put on a play for him. This play-within-a-play is called
"The Taming of the Shrew." Only once after the play-within-the-play has
started does Sly say anything; in fact, he seems to disappear from view and
never returns, so that the end of the play-within-the-play is the actual end
of Shakespeare's play.
this production, Sly's Lady (a man in a dress) first joined him at his seat
in the front row of the audience as the actors "loaded-in" scenery, props
and costumes onto the (apparently) bare stage, then was whisked away by the
"stage manager" during his "light check" to play the part of Bianca in the
play-within-the-play. Elsewhere in the presentation, men played female
characters and women played male characters; the criteria behind these
casting decisions were first, comic potential and second, gender commentary.
To have the ideal feminine beauty played by a man in a dress not only
highlights the arbitrariness of such determinations, but is also a critique
of the male consciousness that defines and presents the ideal. Sly remained
in the front row for the rest of the show, rising to wildly applaud it and take his place on stage for the curtain call.
low-budget "actors in a play," the acting company used whatever costumes and
props they might "find" in their standard inventory. Therefore, costumes
suited the nature of the character rather than a specific period, and props
were often unrealistic and outlandish. The presentation of the action of the
play was therefore characterized by a visual design that was iconographic
and symbolic without being confined to the illusionistic. This was further
incorporated into the sound design, which featured music types ranging from
the "traditional Shakespeare" for the Induction, to the "Italian restaurant"
and "mob hits" for much of the rest (including live singers on That's
Amore and Love and Marriage), with "Western" music for the
"taming" scenes (such as the themes from Rawhide and The Good, the
Bad, and the Ugly).
In order to provide the play with some closure that is lacking due to the
disappearance of Sly, the actor portraying the Players' stage manager
appeared at the end to signal a "blackout."
Preview from the student newspaper
Review from the student newspaper