I found Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare Allowed reading [of The Taming of the Shrew] really challenging (but still a ton of fun!).
I know it is always a mistake to bring too much of your own perspective to older art forms, but then that is one of the glories of Shakespeare to me—through the lens of 500 years of history, I always find myself thinking differently about things when I read or experience his words. But I couldn’t help feeling walls I couldn’t get past in this one.
I spent the afternoon working in the garden, and this play just kept turning in my mind. I finally sat down and re-read Katherine’s final speech. Suddenly one line jumped out at me:
“I am ashamed that women are so simple.”
But she isn’t, is she? That so flies in the face of everything we’ve seen about her that the author could never expect anyone to believe she has changed that much. Shame for being simple? I honestly don’t think so. And we have seen her change—there were a couple of instances where we see her feelings for old “man-boy” [Petruchio] evolve. But her wit remains constant.
As I re-read that line, I couldn’t imagine it without seeing her winking to him.
One more thing that really struck me here. I’ve also found myself questioning the possibility that some of Shakespeare’s plays actually need to be seen, and not just heard. I felt like the last two, reading them and savoring them like a really good single malt, was adding to my understanding and emotional feeling. But this one, I realized, left me thinking, “Wait. There is something else going on here that I actually need to SEE, on a STAGE.” There is something going on here that isn’t captured in text alone; it needs visual cues. Is this not actually a woman who has been broken, but who has, rather, found a co-conspirator? If so, this doesn’t come out in the actual lines (to me at least) but does in the feeling behind the lines.
Or might I be trying too hard to convince myself Shakespeare didn’t really mean to show her “broken”?
I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter that much, given my relationship with Shakespeare. Regardless of his motivations, he got me thinking again.
Patron Todd Barnell attended our recent Soiree where we previewed scenes from the 2018 Season: Flesh and Blood. Directors were able to talk about their upcoming productions and Dawn Tucker, Executive Director, shared her vision for a Titus Andronicus focused on the very personal stories of these families, the dark humor of the play, and a female Titus who can tell this story of a war veteran from the perspective of a mother (an increasingly more common tale). Todd shared this letter with us, and we wanted to share it with you!
“Thank you for inviting me to the Flagstaff Shakespeare event. I was so fascinated by the approach you will be taking with Titus. I’ve never seen it performed, but I did read it (quite a few years ago) and have also read various discussions about it. I actually read [Titus] first, then read some articles. That was an interesting experience for me because I found myself…well, rather shaken after just reading it. But then I read a few people … talking about how it was actually an extraordinarily dark, but still terribly humorous, play. Being someone who tends to be a little too literal at times, I must admit I missed the humor in my read-through! One of the many things I love about your vision (and others on your team) is how you are including music. I also really like your idea of casting a woman in the title role, and your reasoning behind that choice. I think that is going to create a really interesting feel.
As excited as I am to finally see Titus, I must admit I am almost sick with anticipation about The Tempest. It is funny, but I’ve found myself thinking about that play quite a bit recently. When I was asked to present at this year’s Robert Burns Night, I developed a talk called Burns Without Borders, where I explored the global legacy of Scotland’s Bard. My story was actually personal, as I was exposed to his poetry back in the 80s by a professor I revered. I was majoring in African Studies at the time, and my mentor, who was an Ibo from West Africa, took me under his wing. He set up special office hours with me where he introduced me to his language, and gave me a variety of poems and plays to read, as well as political and historical articles. Well, in addition to introducing me to Burns, he also introduced me to Shakespeare, giving me a copy of The Tempest. I guess that set the stage for my odd relationship with Shakespeare: I’ve read a lot more of his plays than I’ve ever actually seen. I’ve rarely found myself in a situation where I had the chance to actually see any of his plays performed, which is why I was over the moon when you started FlagShakes! (Actually it wasn’t until the late 90s that I finally got to see some Shakespeare on stage. Patrick Stewart came to Indianapolis and performed his one-man show “Heavy Lies the Crown.” I nearly died with joy.)
Anyway – I’m terribly excited about this season and I can’t wait to see what you and your amazingly talented team put together!”