- The Taming of the Shrew, and: The Tamer Tamed
The pairing of productions of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew with Fletcher's The Tamer Tamed has certain (or uncertain) advantages. It offers a "new" context for Shrew while encouraging audience attendance at a play that might be a more difficult sell were it not for the possibility of tying it to one of Shakespeare's. After all, if the theatre is not American Shakespeare Center Blackfriars, non-Shakespearean Elizabethan and Jacobean plays are not getting top billing. The necessity of the tie-in appears in the fact that it seems no post-seventeenth-century production of Tamer has used The Woman's Prize as the title for the production publicity; they have instead depended on the alternate title that claims a relationship to the Shakespeare play. In their January 2010 productions, Nebraska Wesleyan University followed the now traditional route and billed The Tamer Tamed as a "sequel of sorts, written about twenty years after" The Taming of the Shrew. These productions used the same actors and performed on alternate nights; surprisingly, each play had its own director. The points of continuity between the plays arose, then, from the ways the actors carried through from one play to another—both as individual actors acting the same or different roles—and through the continuities between the plays' narratives.
Some points of continuity between the productions are worth mention before discussing the individual productions of the plays. The costuming [End Page 496] was similar in both: black pin-striped suits for men and dresses (of an indistinct mid-twentieth century style) for the women established a mild hipster tone. The reiterations of black and white and red insisted these plays were not addressing muted emotions and the intermittent use of commedia dell'arte masks made caricatures of some of the minor characters. None of the main characters—Petruchio, Katherine, Bianca, Livia, Rowland—in either play wore commedia masks, nor did they practice the stylized physical gestures the other characters used. In some ways, this difference established a separation between the main and other characters which might not always be felt in production (of either play). The description of Gremio as "the old pantaloon"—the stock commedia dell'arte character of a miserly old man continually worried about his possible cuckolding—may have encouraged the adoption of commedia dell'arte elements in the productions. In these productions, Gremio's decrepitude was emphasized not by a mask but by a small, portable oxygen tank, usually carried by an attendant. Tamer adopted Gremio in place of the Moroso character and cast the same actor to play Gremio in both plays. Likewise, the same actors maintained their roles as Petruchio, Bianca, Hortensio, and Tranio in both. Notes in the program linked the locations of the plays by stating that for Shrew "the action takes place in a tavern" and for Tamer "the action takes place in a tavern of the mind."
This production of Shrew included the induction with Sly. The purposefully unconvincing portrayal of a young lady by the boy page indicated that the audience ought to be prepared to examine the performance of gender in the main play as well. The simple set had a series of slightly raked...