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The Taming of the Shrew


sandik

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I've been reading along with the coverage of Maillot's version for the Bolshoi, and thinking back on what I know of the Cranko version -- are there any other dance versions of this play?

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Shrew is one of those works that seem to inspire lots of mixed feelings.  I love the film version of the musical (but really, how could you not love something with Ann Miller dancing on a coffee table?), and I love the bits and pieces I've seen of the stage production.  And I do love the Burton/Taylor film, if only for its larger-than-life qualities.  But as a feminist raised in the 70s, I'm always chagrined to admit all that. 

 

The local opera company is presenting Butterfly this summer, and the ballet company will be doing Possokhov's Raku next season -- many people think that these works are beyond the pale today.  I know we've talked through this topic in reference to several different works here on BA, and I'm sure many of us have done the same in other venues, but it still comes down to the same issues.  Do we perpetuate prejudice by producing works that exemplify those qualities.

 

My sister came across this disclaimer on a Warner Brothers anthology -- I'm passing it along here.

 

"The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time.  They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.  While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."

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I didn't advocate or suggest suppression or a modern-style bowdlerization of the original play. If somebody wants to produce the play, that's fine, although it does seem to me there are better things to do. Companies that specialize in Shakespeare are probably obliged to do so and it does not hurt to show modern audiences a glimpse of the bad old days. It is far from its author's best and I can't say I find it that funny, personally. I certainly don't see any need for dance companies to produce new versions of it. 

 

(Off-topic -- not a fan of Zeffirelli movie. I find it tediously rumbustious and Mrs. Burton couldn't cope with even this less-than-demanding Shakespeare. I was interested by Jonathan Miller's old 70s version for the BBC, which Comcast currently has available on demand. The production values are what you'd expect from the period, but they suit Miller's Puritan-themed conception of the play. I liked John Cleese's Petruchio. Sarah Badel's Katharina is also unexpected casting, but she brings out the character's vulnerability well, and her account of Katharina's final speech is lovely. Petruchio tries not so much to dominate Katharina as to show her the damage that she is doing to herself and others - a tough-love intervention as we'd say nowadays. It still doesn't make the story acceptable but as I said, it was interesting.)

 

 

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

I certainly hope there won't be any more. 

 

So do I. Of the versions mentioned, I can honestly say that I find Maillot's the most offensive, because it's a slick, facile and superficial reading that reduces Kate's "personality problem" to sexual frustration, which is magically cured after a tumble in the hay with Petruchio. (Hail the almighty phallus. :dry:) Revolting.

 

On the other hand, Caroline Byrne's quite stupendous production of the play, performed last summer at Shakespeare's Globe, was very powerful theater. 
http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/globe-theatre/the-taming-of-the-shrew-2016

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I agree that Kiss Me Kate is by far the best adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, and it's due to the excellent music and lyrics of Cole Porter. It just gives a level of lightness and champagne to an otherwise somewhat tawdry story. 

 

I mean how can you not love this:

 

 

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Oh, so appropriate right now!  (heat advisories all across the country)  Though I had to giggle -- the caption during the song read that the "average girl" "prefers her lovey doggie to court when the temperature is low."

 

Woof!

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3 hours ago, dirac said:

 I was interested by Jonathan Miller's old 70s version for the BBC, which Comcast currently has available on demand. The production values are what you'd expect from the period, but they suit Miller's Puritan-themed conception of the play. I liked John Cleese's Petruchio. Sarah Badel's Katharina is also unexpected casting, but she brings out the character's vulnerability well, and her account of Katharina's final speech is lovely. Petruchio tries not so much to dominate Katharina as to show her the damage that she is doing to herself and others - a tough-love intervention as we'd say nowadays. It still doesn't make the story acceptable but as I said, it was interesting.)

 

 

 

Jonathan Miller?!  I love Jonathan Miller!  I didn't know he'd done a Shrew -- I will have to find it.

 

A tangent -- did you ever see any of his series "The Body in Question?"  It's been years, but I still have vivid memories of him passing out when he cut off his oxygen -- terrifying.

 

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3 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

 

So do I. Of the versions mentioned, I can honestly say that I find Maillot's the most offensive, because it's a slick, facile and superficial reading that reduces Kate's "personality problem" to sexual frustration, which is magically cured after a tumble in the hay with Petruchio. (Hail the almighty phallus. :dry:) Revolting.

 

 

Magic sex.  Sheesh.

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The movie is a real high point for Ann Miller, who seems inspirited by the amazing dancers around her – Rall, Van, Fosse, Coyne, Haney, a real murderers’ row – and dances up a storm. As canbelto says, the score is from heaven.
 

Quote

 

A tangent -- did you ever see any of his series "The Body in Question?"  It's been years, but I still have vivid memories of him passing out when he cut off his oxygen -- terrifying.


 

sandik, I did see some of it, but I don’t remember it at all, unfortunately. You make me wonder if it is out on DVD somewhere.

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46 minutes ago, dirac said:

The movie is a real high point for Ann Miller, who seems inspirited by the amazing dancers around her – Rall, Van, Fosse, Coyne, Haney, a real murderers’ row – and dances up a storm. As canbelto says, the score is from heaven.
 

sandik, I did see some of it, but I don’t remember it at all, unfortunately. You make me wonder if it is out on DVD somewhere.

 

YouTube is a wonderful thing  The Body in Question

 

Good point about the wealth of talent in Kiss Me, Kate -- I often show this number to people when I want to point to the changing style in musical theater choreography.  Miller is a wonderful example of straight-ahead tapping, but the world is about to shift to Fosse and Haney.

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Bob Fosse is, well a god. People who have never heard of him have been influenced by his work and don't know it.( See Beyonce, who god bless her, steals from everyone  in entertainment who is good.)  I know that Americans are supposed to worship at the church of Balanchine or Graham, but I'm a heretic. I worship at the the alter of Fosse. 

 

And as Gwen Verdon said, he was a superb dancer as well as dance-maker.  

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Fosse was indeed a deity.  As was Jack Cole, who also had an influence that went much further than his unknowing acolytes can trace. 

 

But the choreographer that I think has had the most influence with the least recognition is Hermes Pan.  Which brings us back around to Kiss Me Kate!

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On 7/23/2017 at 1:12 AM, volcanohunter said:

 

So do I. Of the versions mentioned, I can honestly say that I find Maillot's the most offensive, because it's a slick, facile and superficial reading that reduces Kate's "personality problem" to sexual frustration, which is magically cured after a tumble in the hay with Petruchio. (Hail the almighty phallus. :dry:) Revolting.

 

Interesting how you saw this. I saw it totally differently. I too saw Kate as frustrated, but not sexually, rather emotionally from being surrounded by hypocrites and imbeciles, having a sister who is hiding treachery behind niceness, and a spineless excuse for a father. Then she finds someone as liberated and strong-willed as she is, her worthy match, which at first feels a bit unusual or even painful, but then, what's wrong with letting yourself go if you start feeling it? A kind of a coming of age story.

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On 25.07.2017 at 0:50 PM, Fleurdelis said:

Interesting how you saw this. I saw it totally differently. I too saw Kate as frustrated, but not sexually, rather emotionally from being surrounded by hypocrites and imbeciles, having a sister who is hiding treachery behind niceness, and a spineless excuse for a father. Then she finds someone as liberated and strong-willed as she is, her worthy match, which at first feels a bit unusual or even painful, but then, what's wrong with letting yourself go if you start feeling it? A kind of a coming of age story.

 

Nearly every production depicts Bianca and Baptista in the way you describe, but their behavior is not sufficient reason to explain Katherine's extreme anger, particularly if a production is given a modern-day setting, and there's really nothing stopping Kate from leaving the comfort and wealth of her father's home and making her own way in the world. She's also not a child. She has been resisting marriage for some time, and her younger sister is also of marriageable age, so I don't think the coming-of-age approach is valid in his case. Of course there's also the inconvenient problem that the play is called The Taming of the Shrew, not the "awakening" or "liberation" or "emancipation" of the "strong-willed young woman." Beatrice and Benedick are a contentious match of equals. There's no sugarcoating the fact that Petruchio, on the other hand, is out to subjugate Kate, and I would rather that producers of the work not try to dilute this reality in the interests of making this "comedy" more palatable, so that audiences can leave the theater smiling.

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I was talking about my impression of Maillot's work, where he takes many liberties with the Shakespearean plot and characters, and I think the subjugation bit is really downplayed here. I get a sense that even though Katherine may appear to submit to some of Petruchio's whims (like the imaginary fire), she does so with such obvious condescension and sarcasm, that it is really she who is "taming" him. So, keeping Shakespeare's original title of the play may be a mockery in itself.

 

Maillot himself said in his interviews that he wanted to move the play away from the "macho" thing and make it more about two extraordinary people meeting and falling in love with each other.

 

And I think everyone who surrounds Katherine while she is at her father's home is shown as having some reprehensible trait, Maillot takes his time in exploring every character.

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Just back from Taming.  So glad I did not purchase tickets for additional performances.  While not the worst ballet I've ever seen, it certainly makes the worst 10 list.  The most exciting part of the evening was a fire alarm that went off during Act I, and kept beeping for a good 10 minutes.  What a fiasco.

 

Very simplistic and boring choreography. The best part was a pdd for Smirnova and Chudin in Act II.

 

Question:  The website says this production is 2 hrs, 5 min., including intermission.  In actuality, it started at 7:30 and ended at 9:20, including the intermission.  Did they cut a portion of the ballet for the NY engagement?

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