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February 24, 2009

With apologies to Sarah Hemming (and a suggestion that you, loyal reader watch 10 Things I Hate About You, an excellent adaptation of the play we’re about to discuss. It handled the final speech problem very well and retained one of my favorite lines (“I burn, I pine, I perish”).

1. You frequent London.
2. You see interesting plays there.
3. You write about these experiences for my favorite newspaper.
4. Your Taming of The Shrew review has kickstarted my dealing with “The Speech” process.
5. Your Taming of The Shrew review has kickstarted my dealing with “The Speech” process.
6.Your Taming of The Shrew review has kickstarted my dealing with “The Speech” process.
7. Actually, that about covers it as I’m not really a hater — and come to think of it, 1-3 equal good things as I always enjoy the Hemming London Theatre Tour.

So there we are at my alternate office, me with my Taming of The Shrew plan of making the speech Kate’s response to Petruchio’s multiple personality pranking, an alteration of my turn it into a punk rock song plan. This alteration was prompted by the opening of Hemming’s review: “How best to deliver Kate’s submissive speech at the end of Shakespeare’s difficult play? Some directors play it with irony, so that when she says a wife should place her hand beneath her husband’s foot, we know she is saying this only to keep Petruchio quiet. Others suggest there is a sort of conspiracy between the two.”

Which made me think and what I thought was that surely Shakespeare would have had a sense of humor about the whole thing. Kate and Petruchio and everyone else in the play, especially if you include the Sly parts (which I did last time and will not again), slip and slide out of moods and disguises constantly.

My first Taming a mother rushed her two small boys out of the theatre before Kate’s speech, which saddened me. I had told the actress to read it with confidence, which I think was the extent of my advice, which was late in coming because mostly I was thinking “can’t throttle Petruchio” (long story, hi Shane) and “why oh why has this speech been visited upon us”.

So there I was at the alternate office with tea, half a snickerdoodle and my sparkling new humor/irony/wink conspiracy plan but Shakespeare purist that I am, I actually also had a copy of the play and read the speech. And darn that William Shakespeare, it’s amazing and can’t be cut because it’s personal and pointed and specific and so very Kate in a way I really have to figure out before opening night (or better yet, tech). I was with it up to the “I am ashamed that women are so simple/To offer war where they should beg for peace.” I had a flash of Kate the pacifist arguing against strife for strife’s sake. But then it gets personal and she starts empahsizing the weakness of women while DOMINATING the stage and commanding them what to think. The Folger commentary I skip read through points out the fascinating contradiction between how Kate acts and what she says. I believe in Shakespeare. And I think Kate’s stance might have something to do with being the water that wears away the hardest stone, which is actually a position of power but the water never mentions it. Or it might be a severe, very severe case of do as I say and not as I do.

So “Kate of Kate Hall” is a Taoist, a Quaker, a Meglomaniac, a mess of contradictions and fascinating. And there’s an entire play to make that speech work, which is a good thing. And I do have faith in Shakespeare, although his comedy Act V’s require the jamming of too many actors on stage (no wonder there’s so many deaths in the tragedies; it’s therapeutic for the director) and Act I, Scene ii of The Tempest should actually be a prequel play called the Duke Of Milan.

And did I mention, Ms. Hemming, that the play I’m actually directing next is “The Miser” so this is a bit early to be so riled up and have Kate in my head…but it is a fascinating conversation to start so I can almost forgive you.

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