The Alley Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew premieres Thursday, March 14, at the Anderson Museum of Art.
The production takes classic Shakespeare and gives it a narrative twist, recounting the story of love and trickery underneath a big- top tent.
The comedy follows a plucky Lucentio in his pursuit of Bianca, a fair woman who cannot marry until her head-strong older sister, Katherine, finds a suitor. Lucentio encourages the rich man Petruchio to woo Katherine and in turn free Bianca to marry.
Directed by Kay Winter, an AU alum and teacher at Anderson High School, the presentation of the material has shifted focus away from the traditional theme of feminine discipline toward one of personal betterment.
“I wanted people to come to watch this and not think of it as a play about a man ‘taming’ a woman,” Winter says. “I wanted them to come and see it as I believe Shakespeare intended it to be—that all the characters in the play are reinventing themselves in one way or another.”
The addition of the circus environment emphasizes this theme of self-discovery. As Winter says the circus “is the one place where anyone can become anything they want to be.”
“Things have changed with the #MeToo movement,” Winter says. “I wanted to make sure that the audience could really tell that this isn’t about dominating another person—this is about reinventing yourself.”
Winter says that a local performance can provide an escape from campus.
“The Alley Theatre is an awesome experience for students to get away from campus and work with people who aren’t just AU people.” Winter says. “It extends their theatre family.”
The show is comprised of a local cast that ranges from first-time actors to seasoned professionals, and stars two AU students, Juli Biagi as Bianca and Isaac Derkach as Tranio. The show marks the first role in a Shakespeare play for the junior musical theatre majors.
“It’s been hard, of course, because it’s not language that we use nowadays,” says Biagi. “As you know what you’re talking about it makes it that much more exciting.”
Biagi said that the show represents and encourages women to be who they truly are.
“Putting on this show is actually empowering for women to be who they naturally are,” says Biagi. “I think it’s really interesting to learn the different ways that we’re making the show our own. It has been a really fun experience.”
Participating in Anderson community theatre has provided opportunities to grow and connect with thespians of varying ages and backgrounds, a striking contrast to productions put on at the university.
For Biagi, being involved with the Alley Theatre has exposed her to talented people who volunteer their time to the arts.
“Learning by experience from others is enriching my experience here,” says Biagi.
In addition to the Shakespeare roles, each actor has been assigned a complimenting circus role. For Tranio, played by Derkach, the trait of quick-witted deceit will be characterized through the sleight-of-hand of a magician.
“With the idea of a magician in mind, it gives Tranio a new life to me,” says Derkach. “It makes him more than just a servant. He is someone who is willing to go the extra mile for their best friend.”
Derkach said that the artistic location of the performance adds a different perspective.
“The museum is one of the most gorgeous performance venues that I’ve ever been in,” says Derkach. “There is the big dome and there is photography everywhere, so having the big loud colors of our production juxtaposed with all this photography that we’re surrounded by is just really visually appealing and cool to be part of.”
Derkach has worked with the Alley Theatre in the past, providing dramaturgy for last season’s production of Yasmina Reza’s Art directed by David Coolidge.
The job involved breaking down the script, contextualizing the history and identifying running themes for the cast and crew members of the show.
The theatre is an arm of Central Christian Church in downtown Anderson and has been in operation since 2014. Hosting a production of Shakespeare at the museum has been the traditional season closer for the company, harkening back to its first production, Macbeth.
Rick Vale is the artistic director of the company and plays the role of Bianca’s father Baptista. In April, Vale will be directing the Boze Lyric Theatre’s production of Marc Camoletti’s Boeing, Boeing at Byrum Hall.
This season has seen an increased collaboration between AU and the Alley Theatre, primarily through the cast of students, which included Sam Lynch and Skyla Bruno in William Inge’s Picnic in February. This is the product of the intentional professional relationship between both organizations coordinated by Vale and Coolidge.
“This year we made sure that students were available to audition,” says Vale, a retired professional actor from Seattle. “That has opened up a door that has been really great for us. It has been a very positive relationship. I’m just sorry that they have to go to school. If I could get them out of class, I could work with them all the time.”
When moving to the Midwest, Vale had not anticipated the activity or caliber of community theatre in the small city of Anderson, Indiana.
“It is surprising the amount of talent that is here,” he says. “Everybody who comes to theatre either here or at Mainstage is astounded by the high quality.”
The Taming of the Shrew marks the end of the Alley’s fifth season that began in November, which has been a season celebrating female directors.
The premiere of The Taming of the Shrew will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. AU students with valid ID can purchase discounted tickets for price $5. The regular price of admission per ticket is $10.
Additional showtimes will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16, with a final matinee show at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 17.