Taming of the Shrew
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Lynnea Benson
September 25, 2012
What is your job on this show?
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
It was Halloween and I was in the 4th grade. It was another new school for me. I'd just gotten my first taste of Shakespeare by reading Hamlet the previous summer and thought "Wow, these people say things I never heard grown-ups say before," things about the unfairness of life, the dubious value of religion, disliking people in your own family, things like that. The Ghost of King Hamlet kind of tied into the old Hammer horror films (which I still love) that played on TV once in a while. So my one friend Franny and I came up with an idea to turn our grade school cloakroom into a Haunted House for the other kids to enjoy. We got permission from Mrs. Pearson, but then there was a bit of trouble... the show kind of upset some of the other kids--crying, pants-wetting, parents getting mad, etc. It was wonderful.
Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this fall that...?
The Taming of the Shrew is the only show opening in NYC that has music by Ian McDonald (yes, THAT Ian McDonald--founding member of the band King Crimson & Foreigner), AND that has some of the best American Shakespearean actors around; actors who fearlessly explore the aggression, eroticism, and the unique Capitalist values of Padua--with hilarious results. Frog & Peach stays true to the text--we never prettify the political incorrectness found in many of the plays. We respect our audiences to make up their own minds. Put all those things together and it turns out to be a pretty wild ride.
Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
I've always loved this play, but you need a very specific, daring, like-minded group of actors if you want it to be effective--I've worked on a number of shows with almost everyone in the cast. Amy Frances Quint, who plays Katherine, reminds people of Carole Lombard--she may look like an angel but she has the comic sensibility and nerve of Will Farrell. I also badly wanted to work with Vivien Landau again--if you don't know Vivien's work, and you love great acting, you have to see this woman in action. Regal, gorgeous, and a gifted comedienne, you will completely forget that Baptista was written as a father, not a dynamic, sexy, matriarch. Lenny Ciotti (Tranio) is just a filthy comic genius with the looks of a Italian Count. Eric Doss, who plays Hortensio, is a wonderfully gifted and tremendously versatile performer. He broke many hearts as Bottom in our recent Midsummer Night's Dream, and it's pure pleasure to watch him work. Erick Gonzalez is an audience favorite. He brings a seductive vulnerability to the role of Petruchio without losing any of the loopy bombast. These are only a few of the splendid performers in Shrew, and I would not have proceeded if any one of them had not been game to take on this rather controversial production.
Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
Bugs Bunny, hands down.
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Oh, very much so, yes. Life is too short to go around pretending to be bored and cynical all the time. Passion is very empowering, and the people in Shrew are VERY passionate. We enjoy a very broad audience demographic at Frog & Peach--ritzy Lincoln Center types, high-school kids from the Bronx, students from NYU and Columbia, young professionals on a budget, Brooklyn hipsters, fashionistas, working families from the nabe, the skateboard crowd--you name it. And when all these people get together you can actually feel the isolation melt away from the moment the lights go down. There's a sense of immediate, shared experience that our audience takes home. I think the attention Frog & Peach gives to the inner lives of each role helps people be a little more patient and sympathetic with each other in daily life. And with the economy still so tough (and especially in a vicious election year), that's a gift that keeps on giving to all our fans in this beautiful city we call home. This season also marks the return of Tinkerbell Theatre, our Children's program. Beloved for its subversive humor, live music, and super cool puppets, Tinkerbell Theatre is a fun way to introduce theatre to kids 3 and up. Opening Oct 13 with two different fairy tales (Cinderella & The Tinderbox) each Saturday and Sunday, at 11:30 am & 12:30 pm. Tinkerbell Theatre is a favorite with kids, teens, and adults too. West End Theatre, 263 W 86th St.