If you go
What: "Taming of the Shrew"
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and May 5, 6, 12 and 13; 2 p.m. May 7
Where: First Presbyterian Theater, 300 W. Wayne St.
Admission: $20 adults, $18 seniors, $10 for students with the first 30 admitted free; 426-7421, ext. 121, or FirstPres-FW.org
Also: A preview show will take place Thursday night. Tickets are $12 at the door.
First Presbyterian Theater opens William Shakespeare's comedy "Taming of the Shrew" this weekend.
The play has been adapted many times, including in such films as "Kiss Me Kate" and "10 Things I Hate About You." In the original comedy, Petruchio pursues the headstrong Katherina, who wants nothing to do with him. The courtship is spurred on by suitors of Katherina's more desirable younger sister, Bianca, who is not allowed to marry until Katherina herself is wed.
Actor Zane Sade took some time out of preparing to play Petruchio to answer a few questions via email. His responses have been edited. Read more about the show Friday in Weekender.
Q. Do you remember your first time seeing "Taming of the Shrew"? Was it the original or one of the many contemporary adaptations?
A. I've actually never seen a live production of "The Taming of the Shrew," and I hadn't read the play in its entirety until just two months ago!
Before then, the only portion I'd seen was a video clip from a 1976 production done by the American Conservatory Theater; they staged it with a classical commedia dell'arte flair, and the show lends itself very well to that style. We watched it during a rehearsal for a different show I performed in college, in which I played a role rather similar to Petruchio. The clip showed Petruchio and Kate's infamous first meeting during Act II, Scene 1, which they decided to stage as a full-contact wrestling match. I remember thinking at the time, "So this is why people exercise."
For the First Presbyterian Theatre production, we made a conscious decision not to go quite so rowdy because we didn't want the relationship to be mistaken as abusive.
Q. Aside from memorizing lines and staging, what do you do outside of the theater to prepare for a show?
A. When you're dealing with Shakespeare, the lines take up a huge brunt of the workload – not just because they're difficult to understand and convey to a modern audience, but because he packed so much material into every phrase! There are double or triple entendres littered throughout every script, and there can be a dozen definitions for certain words he chose.
The text is the best (and often, only) tool we have as actors to understand our character; so even after the lines are memorized, the best work comes from reading those lines again. And again. And again. Just about every time, you can find different shades and different intonations to play, and then it's a collaboration between yourself and the director to decide which of those works best for the characterization we want to present.
Q. Wrapping your mouth around Shakespearian language must be difficult. Has learning these lines differed from performing a more contemporary work?
A. Like night and day! The first thing to know is that while Shakespeare may have been pretty amazing, he wasn't God. When you write nearly every line with 10 syllables, you're going to throw some unnecessary words in there every now and then. Once you start dissecting the text, you start to see it all over the place. That's the hardest part for me – remembering every tiny preposition, exclamation and pronoun that is thrown in just to make the rhythm work.
That said, the rhythm works more in your favor than against it. Once you get an ear for it, I find it's much easier to remember than most modern works; which is extremely fortunate, because boy, did Shakespeare love his words, words, words...
Q. Halee Shutt, who plays Katherina, told me the performance has a lot of opportunity for physical comedy. Are there challenges in that?
A. Live physical comedy is always a treat, because you need to find a way to make it look like it hurts, but do it in a way that's safe and repeatable; and of course, we have our tricks to accomplish just that.
It requires open communication between actors so that we can trust each other and understand each other's limits. The way I'm describing it, it almost sounds like we're going to be throwing knives at each other, but the same basic principles apply whether you're getting slapped or catching someone on a trapeze.
Physical comedy comes with its mental challenges as well: if Halee is going to hit me on stage, we've got to set it up in a way where the audience decides that I kinda deserve it. Nobody's going to laugh unless the scene is played in a direction where you kinda want that person to feel a little pain. There's a reason Wile E. Coyote was always the one being flattened by an anvil.
Q. What would you like to work on next in the world of local theater? Is there a dream show you would like to be a part of?
A. Immediately after we put a wrap on "Shrew," I'll be heading down the street to Arena Dinner Theatre to begin rehearsals for "Assassins." It's my first time working at that venue, and my first time working with Christopher J. Murphy, so I'm incredibly excited to see what's in store! In the same vein, I'd love to get another crack at "Sweeney Todd," or just about any other Stephen Sondheim show.