​‘Taming of the Shrew’ Takes the Stage This Weekend

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
The theatre department at the University will stage William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” this weekend.
“The Taming of the Shrew” is a comedy that depicts the courtship of Katherina, an ill-tempered woman, by fortune-seeking Petruchio.
“The crux of the problem is that Kate has a younger sister Bianca, who is perfect,” said Peter Smith, director of the play and professor of theatre arts. “The father has decreed that the younger daughter, who has all these men wanting to marry her, cannot get married until the older daughter gets married. Then suddenly, along comes Petruchio, who is coming to the town for the sole purpose of getting married to someone who is wealthy. The set up is that he will marry Kate if he gets enough money, and her father is perfectly capable and willing to pay any price.”
Auditions for the show were held right after Christmas break, and Smith said rehearsals began immediately.
Karissa Wheeler, an English and theatre double major, is playing the role of Kate. Wheeler has been acting since she was 8-years-old. She said for her, preparing for the role began with diving into the text.
“With every role that I have, I come to it with an open mindset. I do background research, and I go through the text. I always refer back to the text when I’m having issues because it’s all there,” she said. “I’ve really tried to look at why Kate acts the way she acts, why she makes the decisions she makes, and really look back at why she is the way she is. I think that’s the only way to bring truth to this character is to look at her reasonings and her circumstances.”
Smith said for many of the students, the language in the play proved a challenge.
“Most of them have not really played Shakespeare, and they’re having to deal with that language. Karissa has a challenge and she has a very long speech at the end of the play, which is somewhat controversial,” he said. “Also, it’s a physical comedy. There’s a lot of movement and body play, and there’s some physical interactions between characters.”
Wheeler said her professors in the English department were helpful to her in getting to the center of the play and Kate as a character.
“I think at this point, my hope is I have a good enough understanding of the show and of Kate, to be able to relate that to the audience,” she said.
For Wheeler, the final step to getting into the headspace of the character is working to understand the motivations.
“Since our first run through last week, I’ve been wrestling with what I want to bring to Kate as a character. I was not in the mindset of Kate from beginning to end. It was more like, ‘This is Kate in this scene,’” she said. “When we began doing the complete run through, it was harder to see her go from being the shrew who won’t have anything to do with anyone and doesn’t want to be bothered with love, to seeing her go through this love test situation where Petruchio is breaking her down.”
“Dr. Smith gave me some really good advice about how my job as an actor is to bring as much truth to Kate as I possibly can. In the back of my mind, I have an answer to what I think she is doing in that moment. But, I want the audience to be able to make that decision for themselves.”

“The Taming of the Shrew” will be presented in the Tennessee Williams Center Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be reserved at eventbrite.com