“She likes his spontaneity. She likes that he doesn’t care what the world thinks,” Wilmington said. “And when no one likes Kate, he’s the first person who actually does.”
“Most people either love the play or hate it,” Olson said. “I think it’s hilarious. The fights are a riot. It’s one of my favorites.”
Those slapstick fights between Wilmington and rising senior Tristan Boesch, who plays Petruchio, were carefully worked out to accentuate the witty verbal sparring between these loving enemies. “They keep trying to one-up each other. We tried to match the verbal play with physical play,” Wilmington said. Bruises and scrapes are rare, she said — but they’ve happened.
Some have argued that Katherine’s oppression is so cruel and her conversion so unbelievably tidy, Shakespeare’s audience would not have liked it any more than we do. Perhaps his real intent was deeply biting satire — a moral correction aimed at husbands in the audience who recognize themselves as the real shrews?
Katherine has good reason to be angry, Olson pointed out: She’s actually the most honest, upfront, respectable person in the play, but feels powerless and universally reviled; meanwhile, her younger sister Bianca is adored but “totally devious,” Olson said. “There’s a real interesting contrast there.”
This is the second year that Olson has offered an intense, three-week “Shakespeare Summer” at VSAA; last year’s offering was “Twelfth Night.” He’s tried to generate interest throughout the Vancouver Public Schools district, but so far the only participants have been VSAA students, he said. He’s hoping for more next year, he said.
This production has been “an embarrassment of riches,” Olson said, for the way its cast has enthusiastically delved into the text — and heatedly debated its problems.
“The Taming of the Shrew” first appeared in 1594, but this version is set in the groovy 1970s — partially because that was a time when “women’s liberation” was really shaking up traditional gender roles, but mostly because “it’s very hilarious, costume-wise,” Olson said. “We’ve got some pretty wild and crazy patterns.” Hippie dresses and wide lapels abound.
The show’s been staged at breakneck speed, he added: a scant three weeks of preparation in all. “Most plays we do at VSAA take about three months,” Olson said. “The fact that they are up in front of audiences on an outdoor stage, rattling off Shakespearean text, in such a condensed amount of time, is really impressive.”
If You Go
• What: “The Taming of The Shrew” by William Shakespeare, presented by the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, directed by Seth Olson.
• When: 6 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Outdoor courtyard at VSAA, off F street at 31st. Street address is 3101 Main Street.
• Cost: Free.
• Seating:Bring a chair.