Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

[ASP] The Taming of the Shrew [2009-10-15]

Community Night: Miss Conduct Tames the Shrew
Thursday, October 15th | 5:45pm to 7:00pm
Upstairs on the Square


Boston Globe blogger, Robin Abrahams, will read from her new book, Mind Over Manner: Master the Slippery Rules of Modern Ethics and Etiquette, and lead a discussion about sex, communication, Petruchio and Kate. In the Zebra Room at Upstairs on the Square, we'll eat, drink and discuss all the Shrew-ness we can handle!
Okay, so it didn't start until like 6pm, and they wrapped it up at like 6:45 (to allow people time to buy her book and stuff, I guess).  There were waitstaff walking around with appetizers -- most of which were actually vegetarian (unlike most of the entrees on the menu) and OMG shot-glass of creamy tomato soup with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich!  However, Cate and I did split an entree 'cause we thought we'd be excessively hungry otherwise.  I knew from having had lunch there during Restaurant Week that their portions are small, but still, wow...  How is this our default restaurant for taking candidates?  Anyway.

Apparently she's affiliated with HBS (I Googled the next day, and she's an RA -- a Research Associate).  She did her dissertation on how people's life experiences affect how they interpret narratives.

She talked about how an empty beer bottle is a better weapon than a full one and similarly Kate.  Drained of rage, she is liberated -- able to use her wit and strength more with more focus and power.  She said that Kate's speeches get longer and more articulate as she is "tamed."

She read from some of her book, and I was displeased that it was so heteronormative (though she was poly affirming -- at one point after she'd something about your partner or something, she made an offhand comment like, "or multiple partners, if that's your thing").  After she'd finished, she explained that her book is primarily for opposite-sex couples, in large part because those are the questions she gets, and also because gay people aren't getting all these messages from the culture that the opposite sex is a mystery and whatever (I would clarify that they are, it's just less relevant to their interests, but I know what she meant).  I would have appreciated getting that explanation before the reading, but.

She quoted Petruchio's "If she and I be pleased, what's that to you?" and my immediate thought was BDSM.  I'm not actually sure why.

She used the term "fanfic" twice (during the Q&A, someone asked if she thought gay men would like Kate, and she talked about how Kate seemed most uncomfortable when Petruchio called her beautiful -- barbs she could return, but when he said nice things about her she was like "Okay, now you're making fun of me" -- so she wasn't sure Kate would enjoy the attention even from gay men, and said she wasn't sure Petruchio's secure enough in his heterosexual masculinity -- and she said there should be "Kate and Petruchio go to a gay bar" fanfic, to which my thought was, "Yuletide nominations are open") and "spoilers" any number of times.

She talked about goody two shoes and the frustration (that someone like Kate would have) of, "I act like a bitch, but she IS one, why don't you see that?"

She commented that Petruchio never hits her.  That he's suffering much the same privations as she is (you CAN stage it so that he's eating, but you can't stage it so that he's sleeping, since he's the one keeping her awake).  And that he never rapes her -- which, if you're a man looking to dominate a woman, is an obvious way to do it ... and it wasn't until the 1970s that we recognized that marital rape is a crime.  [Having seen the play, I would argue that it simply doesn't suit his purposes -- that he's keeping Kate from things that she wants -- food, sleep, her father's house -- and raping her doesn't fit with that.]

The next day, I read an interview that's up on the ASP website, which has a LOT of the same stuff that.

The house didn't open until 7pm, so we went to Herrell's (which is apparently open through Head of the Charles -- this weekend -- and ambiguous after that).  I got Hazelnut Cream, though I couldn't really taste it what with the hot fudge.

So, the show.

The framing is AWESOME.

The fight scene totally turns kind of erotic.  Which makes a lot of sense -- Petruchio's giving as good as he gets and sparring wits can be a lot of fun.

The wedding scene is weird 'cause Kate seems like personally hurt -- not just "you've shamed me and made me a laughingstock," but "I've always dreamed of a princess wedding..."

When Kate agrees that the sun is the moon, she's just resigned -- she's like, "Fine, if this is what it takes for us to go to my father's house."  And in talking with Cate later, I was saying that Petruchio's trying to get her to stop being so wedded to being right all the time, but the text never actually tells us that, which is a little frustrating.
Acting like the old man is a young maiden, she realizes that okay this could be a fun joke.
But I feel like there's a missing scene to get to the ending monologue (which is still hard -- and I was a little sad that they didn't do anything with the pun potential of "foot").  Yes, I can see Petruchio proposing this wager and her being excited to trick these people who are being trufac mean to her, but I didn't see evidence that she was playing them -- it was played straight, which is uncomfortable and which also feels untrue to the character.

Miss Conduct had said that when Petruchio's friends are like, "She'll never love you," he's like, "I was never looking for love to begin with, so that's fine," and that does seem true in his early scenes, but then I think he really does care about Kate.

Bianca seemed kinda flat.  Cate and I didn't see Miss Conduct's reading of Bianca in there at all (like, when Bianca's offering her suitors to Kate, it comes across as a real "Just tell me which one you want; I want you to be happy and don't have preferences of my own"), though certainly one could do it that way -- and Cate talked about Kate and Bianca's relationship in Ten Things I Hate About You, which I now want to rewatch, along with rereading the original play.

Read later:
Director's Notes
By Melia Bensussen

In rediscovering The Taming of the Shrew for this production I was amazed at the spirit of possibility and transformation that lives throughout this play.  Written during the reign of Elizabeth I, Shrew is primarily known for its battle of the sexes and its presentation of distressing gender stereotypes: but I found my inspiration in Shakespeare's less well-known Induction, and from this passage from Ovid's Metamorphoses (here translated by Ted Hughes):
Some are transformed just once
And live their whole lives after in that shape.
Others have a facility
For changing themselves as they please.
Within the world of Shrew everyone is playing at what they are not, and class, as well as gender, are exposed as performances in which performer and viewer are complicit.  The most controversial transformation is that of Kate, the infamous and wonderful figure of the play's center, whose wildness and impossibility -- her stubbornness and refusal to compromise -- lives at the core of the play.  Less noticed is the transformation within the Induction, Shakespeare's frame that gives us Sly's shape-shifting from passed-out drunk, "one dead," to a powerful "nobleman," all through the whimsy of a Lord who discovers Sly unconscious.

"Taming," or civilizing, is the main reason behind the many transformations; the play argues that all of us must compromise for society to function, and by bringing out this painful process of accommodation to the will of others, invokes our relationship to art, to each other, and ultimately to ourselves.

Is it my being immersed in the tempestuous state of raising teenage children that leads me to seriously consider the importance of civility in our lives, in our culture?  Is it our new President and the tone of even-handed discourse?  Do we, like some assume Kate is forced to do, sell our souls and our independent think when we compromise to make a contract work?  Or by outwardly compromising do we strike the best balance, keeping protected a private self, while winning the larger more profitable gambit?  And in the end do our performances ultimately lead to core transformations in our lives?
And from David Evett:
the Folio text itself uncercuts an easy assertion of patriarchal dominance, especially in the secondary plot.  Here, Kate's younger sister, Bianca, overtly submissive, covertly pursues her own happiness on her own terms, which include scorning her teachers as well as the will of her father, Baptista.  Her overturning of the standard hierarchy, in which grown-up children remain dutifully obedient to their parents, is subtly reflected in the behavior of two servants, Grumio, who willfully misinterprets orders from his master Petruchio, and Tranio, who spends much of the play acting as a master, with ever-increasing confidence and panache, to the point where he publicly denies his subservience to his own master, Vincentio.
***

Hyperion Shakespeare Company is doing an all-female Richard II (10/21-10/24 ... I think I'm going to go Fri. 10/23).
Tags: food: boston area, lectures/panels, planning ahead, plays: asp, plays: attended, plays: boston area, plays: shakespeare, shakespeare: the taming of the shrew
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