Category Archives: Education

Did we mention we’re hell-bent on changing the world?

The Shrew Blog 5-9-15


Carla Lerner – Tranio, Ensemble

Carla_rehearsalI just finished my third rehearsal of Taming and the whole cast has taken me on, out of nowhere, without skipping a beat. I’m having a blast and (perhaps shamefully) am grateful that someone dropped, because being a part of this process is fascinating.

The Taming of the Shrew is a tricky show for the modern woman, which makes me doubly grateful to be working on it with an all-female cast. Even if we are not “shrews,” every person in the room lives with the cultural expectation of docility. I’m grateful for that shared experience, because I think it gives us greater license to look at the aspects of this play that tend to stick in our throats. It also helps that Monica, our Katherina, is an utter powerhouse.

But, I suppose I should be writing more about my own part. So, Tranio. This friggin guy. What a trouble maker. One of my favorite things in life is when, somehow or other, a role lands in my lap that it never would have occurred to me to play. It’s an incredible opportunity for growth and experimentation. Tranio exists in such a different physical space than I do. As a petite lady, it’s so great to play with his bawdiness, his extravagance, the GUYness of him. I’ve played a lot of dudes in my time, but some males are just extra plus male and Tranio is one of them. He’s wonderfully large. My current goal is to push it to the point where Kate asks me to dial it back. I do not know if this is possible. Also, Tranio and Lucentio have a secret handshake and it is the BEST.

Exploring Tranio has been making me think a lot about disguises, about our everyday masks and about code-switching. Tranio, Lucentio, and Hortensio wear the most blatant disguises, but I’m starting to feel like this whole play is an exploration of how we reconcile our nature with the role we’re given at birth, and of the different roles we take on to get what we want.


The Shrew Blog 5-5-15


Shannon Ward – Lucentio/Ensemble

Shannon_rehearsalDammit, if I don’t keep making connections between my life and this play. Which is not something I would have guessed coming into The Taming of the Shrew. But there is always something new to find with Shakespeare. (One would hope that would be the case. Otherwise why would we still be reading and performing it?) Today we discussed Bianca, a character who I had always written off as a vapid secondary character that was simply the foil to Kate’s “shrew.” But when I thought of her as a person rather than a character, I remembered that she is a sister. A little sister. I have one of those. Bianca has had a childhood in Kate’s shadow. Learning from her, seeing her failures and successes, and forging her own life accordingly. Now, I’m not sure how much my sister would agree with this, but I am absolutely certain that she is handling life which much more badass poise than I did at her age. I am incredibly proud of her accomplishments, and I think she will grow into an AMAZING woman. But I see Bianca now as a more rounded person. Perhaps very similar to Kate, just better at playing the game. (The game being society. It’s always society.) And Kate sees her, a mini-her that’s more successful at life, and she is jealous. The parallel between their relationship and my relationship with my sister ends there, but I think that Kate is extra infuriated because she has lost an ally in life.


The Shrew Blog 5-3-15


Margo Murphy-Gross – Stage Manager

Margo_rehearsalToday’s rehearsal started with a conversation about women using manipulation in different ways and what those different methods of manipulation mean. In the case of “Taming” Bianca’s manipulation seems to be a survival method rather than an act of malice. This conversation led to a conversation about survival v. Flirtation. When we took our break the conversation became more serious and led to some conversation about what it means to be female is today’s society. A big thing that came up was peoples’ perception on breasts. A lot of us have had interactions where people measure our happiness with our femininity based on how “curvy” we are. But not just our bodies but how we “use” them. Are we less feminine if we don’t flirt, or use push up bras? Though this is not a group of people who buy into that we are all being held to that standard when we are out in the world. Though we have come a long way since Shakespeare’s England these same dynamics still exist the difference between Bianca who has learned to flirt and Katharina who has reacted to the world around her with rage. It’s not that one of them is bad or one method is worse or better. But the bare bones of being female is that we still have to make a choice around our behavior we will be a shrew or not? Maybe this is a choice that we make for how we deal with everything in the outside world or a choice have to make and remake in every new location and group. Do you smile at the man in the deli who calls you honey, or do you tell him that you aren’t his honey? Do you keep walking when someone grab your ass or do you say something? Can you accept that free drink or no? What is safe and what isn’t? It seems to be that it all breaks down into the question of safety, and then breaks down into what does safety mean? In a sense when Katharina bows to Petruchio’s will isn’t she making the choice that she needs to, to be safe? And in a sense looking at what her choices were isn’t safety the closest to happiness in that world? And how far removed really is that aspect of that world from our world?


The Shrew Blog 5-1-15


Monica Jones – Katharina, Ensemble

Monica_rehearsalI recently got married…like in February. So, I have a sort of connection with Kate. The idea that somehow one must lose themselves in order to become one with their partner for life. We have debated whether or not Kate is a willing participant, a conspirator or somewhere in the middle. From my personal experience, there comes a certain death to self. Not so much one to mourn but a loss, nonetheless. To remove something in order to gain. If I had one goal, my mission to bring to this production, it is to highlight the strength of such a decision. Her unwillingness is a mask to hide her fear…perhaps. Her defiance is to mask her uncertainty…perhaps. Her compliance is a representation of her hope…perhaps.

I’m excited to explore the fight in Kate. Not just in her defiance, wit, unflappableness (Is that a word?), etc…but in her battle to submit and to sustain. Kate is a wild horse, beautiful and dangerous. What happens when she is captured, bridled and bound? Does she lose her spirit? Or is it simply her spirit is so vast and powerful that nothing can truly contain her? I guess I am excited to explore the fight within myself as well.

We shall see….


The Shrew Blog 4-29-15


Kate Holland – Director

Kate_rehearsalI have to say, this process of rehearsing this play is a gradual loosening of defenses for me. When Sarah first asked me to direct Taming of the Shrew, I started crying — I begged her to choose any other play. I couldn’t see through my own discomfort with the gender issues raised by the play and my own past experiences in relationships in which I was not an equal partner. These words sound rational and reasonable but the truth is that when I read the words of Katharina’s final speech, I felt scalded by them as if they were drops of acid.

I saw no way INTO the text while being true to ourselves as women. The only way forward that I could see was to direct some kind of commentary on gender, deconstructing the play, “breaking” it. The visionary Tina Packer, who comes from a place of much more experience and wisdom than myself, has a similar dislike of “Taming of the Shrew”.

Sarah was patient and brave enough to hang in there with me while I first protested and then plotted to unravel the play. She challenged me instead to trust the text, to venture into Shakespeare’s words with this amazing company of women and search for the heart of the matter.

Rather than creating a deconstructed “Shrew” that shines a searchlight on power imbalances (as had been my first inclination), we are searching for the spark to light each of the characters so they glow from within, revealing their hearts and their vulnerabilities. Much cruelty and injustice in the world comes from a place of pain on the part of the perpetrator, and we can never win the war for respect and equality with weapons of rage. Only by seeking first to understand, searching for these characters from a place of compassionate curiosity, can we hope to engage meaningfully with this play and effect change in ourselves and each other with it.

Today we dove into the question of masculinity as it relates to Hortensio, his desire for Bianca, and his sense of self in relationship to the other men in the play. More on this next time, as sleep is pulling me down like an irresistible anchor.


The Shrew Blog 4-27-15


Shannon Ward – Lucentio / Ensemble

IMG_20150426_113621We talked for quite a while today about Hortensio as a character, and how he strives (somewhat unsuccessfully) to fit into a masculine mold in order to win Bianca’s love. We discussed the pressures that men have to be “masculine.” And I started thinking about how those pressures are two sided. Much like Katharina, I struggled with fitting into a “feminine” mold when I was younger. I was unlucky in love and I blamed my looks and my tom-boyish personality. In college, I tried to become more like how I thought a girl should be. And it’s true, I turned more heads, but it wasn’t until I became truly comfortable with myself as a woman and as a human being that I was able to connect with someone who I ended up falling in love with. It all stems from an acceptance of the self. I was self-conscience of my tomboy ways in high school, and now I embrace them. I am a woman, girly or no, and I am confident and self-assured. And I think, in the end, that’s what really makes a person attractive. So maybe Hortensio shouldn’t worry so much about being all macho like Petruchio. If only he could carry his masculinity in his own way, and just keep being the badass clown he is.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories! When have you felt “out of sync” with the world around you? How do you feel when media and society tell you you need to act and behave and look a certain way in order to fit in?


The Shrew Blog 4-26-15


Amy Frey – Tranio / Ensemble

(Shortly after this post Amy unfortunately had to leave the production because school and amazing things called her. We will miss her and welcome lovely Carla!)

IMG_20150426_115339First day at Manhattan Shakes and I’m trying not to vomit. I got here way too early. And I’m not entirely sure I should be here in the first place. I’m thrilled, of course, to join this incredibly intelligent, talented group of women, but the excitement is manifesting in a slightly queasy case of nerves. I’ve been in school for the past two years for occupational therapy, and I’ve been spending the last week and a half hunched over a computer, vainly hashing out my master’s thesis. The world of theatre, particularly physical theater, has seemed light years away from my fieldwork at the hospital.

But then I get to the rehearsal space, and Sarah’s already turned on a ridiculously upbeat, candy-pop song, and is starting a physical warm up. I stop worrying if I’m good enough, or if I’ve lost all of the skills that I had in college, (I have.) because we’re running around and dancing and I meet Kate again, who indulges my slightly breathless character analysis, told at a frantic pace because I’m burning with ideas that I’ve been suppressing for the past two years because of science.

I calm down a bit after that. I love my character-Tranio seems to come right out of a commedia dell’arte lazzi, something that I studied in Italy years ago, but put away as a skill set never to be used again. I meet Shannon, who is a grounded, beautifully realized Lucentio, and listen to the smart, nuanced takes everyone seems to have on all of the characters. It’s a fun, thought-provoking, honest rehearsal process: I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Let’s talk! What do you do to prepare for your first day?


The Shrew Blog 4-23-15


Margo Murphy-Gross – Stage Manager

IMG_20150426_112114Taming of the Shrew has been one of my favorite shows from a very young age, starting with a preteen obsession with Heath Ledger in “10 Things I Hate About You”. I have been lucky enough to work on a production of Taming two summers in a row now and find that this show holds so much for people to look at from so many perspectives. The rehearsal process thus far with MSP has been really wonderful. Looking at this show from an all-female perspective is a very emotional experience. Today’s rehearsal has me thinking a lot about what women thing of men’s tonality and physicality. Sarah having to find where Petruchio is scary or playful. During this rehearsal Sarah found something particularly powerful with Petruchio’s voice, finding the male tonality that I (and maybe others) react to emotionally and instantly. In addition to that flooring experience in today’s rehearsal there have been many moments watching women take over male characters during this rehearsal. I think that it’s very powerful to witness this and even adds power to the women (the people not just the actors) taking over these male characters. I am excited to watch the power dynamics between the characters and between the actors and the characters that they are taking on.

How do you code shift? When and with who do you use a “different” you? And why?


The Shrew Blog



This summer, June-July 2015, Manhattan Shakes will be performing Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew in our signature FREE Shakespeare in the ParkS production.

This story has been dubbed a “problem” play. We, the women working on this production, would like to share our thoughts and feelings about tackling this script.

Follow The Shrew Blog as we invite you into the rehearsal room and our interior monologues as women and as actors. In our own words.

April 22, 2015 – Kate Holland (Director)

April 23, 2015 – Margo Murphy-Gross (Stage Manager)

April 26, 2015 – Amy Frey (Tranio, Ensemble)

April 27, 2015 – Shannon Ward (Lucentio/Ensemble)

April 29, 2015 – Kate Holland (Director)

May 1, 2015 – Monica Jones (Katharina, Ensemble)

May 3, 2015 – Margo Murphy-Gross (Stage Manager)

May 5, 2015 – Shannon Ward (Lucentio/Ensemble)

May 9, 2015 – Carla Lerner (Tranio, Ensemble)


The Shrew Blog 4-22-15

Kate Holland – Director
IMG_20150426_113246Tonight we are looking at the wooing scene between Hortensio, Lucentio and Bianca. This scene is so delicious, full of innuendo and wordplay. It’s also the scene where we see how powerful Bianca is. Unlike Katharina, Bianca has learned the all the rules of the gender game and is a virtuosic player. While staying completely sweet and charming throughout the scene, she displays an ironclad will and a fierce intelligence. She is actually not all that different from her “shrewish” sister — she’s just a much more adaptable player.


Does Katharina learn to play? Is that what Petruchio is teaching her?


What happens to women who can’t or won’t play the role that society has ordained that they play?


To the good ones, the kind and quiet and undemanding ones, much is given, as long as they are beautiful. Katharina is like the wicked stepsisters and Cinderella all in one — cut off your heel and toes to fit in a glass slipper, and as long as you never make a peep again, you can marry the Prince.


Reminds me of Brene Brown’s work on shame, and how women most often feel shame when they have failed to do everything perfectly, and still maintain composure. Never let them see you sweat. Backwards, in heels.
Have you ever felt shame associated with your gender? Looking back on your younger experiences what advice would you give yourself?