Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Feature: Jacqui Skeete on playing the Shrew in an (all female) Taming

Playing A Woman In a Man’s World... 
In An All-Female Cast
by Jacqui Skeete
Jacqui Skeete is an actress, host, and producer. She is a graduate of York University’s Acting Program. Previous credits include an adaptation of Midsummer’s Night Dream (Speakeasy Productions), Oleanna (Jaybird Productions), Unconditional (Column 13), Pulp Fiction LIVE (Purple Octagon), and co-host/reporter of CosmoTV (Corus Entertainment).
The Play

Sometimes with Shakespeare’s plays there aren’t enough female roles to go around! So when word got out that Jaybird Productions was holding blind casting for an All Female Taming of The Shrew, I picked up my Shakespeare lexicons, did some roll downs and got to work on figuring out which character I wanted to audition for. Turned out I was still interested in a female role…I’ll get to Kate in a moment, but first…
Taming of The Shrew is a comedy about the courting and marriage of Katharina, a loud, headstrong young woman and Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona. Petruchio sets out to ‘tame’ his angry bride through physical and psychological tormenting…did I mention it’s a comedy? The sub-plot involves Bianca, who seems to be more quiet, obedient, and lady-like than Kate, and being so is more sought after by the men of Padua.   

(photo by Burdett Photography)
The Shrew

I play Kate/Katharina/The Shrew. It’s been so much fun getting to know her inside and out! Kate is such a complex and interesting character.  From her tantrums to her ‘un lady like’ remarks, she may first come off as being shrewish in nature, but actually delving a little deeper she is much more sensitive than her actions make her out to be.  
One of the great challenges during this process for me in this role was not to make Kate, The Shrew, one-dimensional. It was something I always checked in with director, Jacqui Burke about. Yes, she’s loud, obstinate, and at times violent, but she uses that tough exterior to hide the softer more sensitive part of her: her heart. Her journey is one that I’m so happy I could take!  
Another part of my process was the physicality of my characters…I also play Sly, the drunken tinker, at the top of the play. Figuring out how my characters moved, what part of their body they led with, and how much room they took up, was very important. Also this is performed in the round, so I had to be aware from the get go that every angle is seen, and to play out to the audience. I’m very excited that my characters’ interactions with the audience is something that will develop and morph and change with each run!     
In addition, we all got to work with fight director, Thom Speck, which was extremely fun! We learned some basic stage combat moves like naps, slaps, hair pulls (yes it’s a comedy!) and then tried them out in the appropriate scenes.Which for Kate there are quite a few! 
The Cast (All Female, btw)

Having an All Female cast for a play that has been largely criticized for being misogynistic towards women was enlightening. First I have to say how delightful it was going through this process with such a talented group of women. I’ve never performed in an All Female cast before, so tackling this play, especially, with these amazing actresses was a fantastic and rewarding experience.   
Jacqui B. led discussions about what it was like for women during the time Shakespeare wrote this play. We talked about how much more oppressed women’s roles were in the 50’s and 60’s (which isn’t that long ago) in comparison to now. As well as, what we thought this play was trying to teach us, as women.
Is it that a ‘lady’ should act loyal, obedient, and subservient? Or is it that it’s better to be a shrewish wench, than to be tied down, and bound to love?   
In the end, I do think the play instructs us, gender aside, on power. And Petruchio’s “Taming School”, teaches Kate a good lesson on how and when to use it.  

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