‘Ruff Love or What You Will,’ an adaptation of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

Rachel Alt as Kate and Charlie Coniglio as Petruchio
Left: Rachel Alt (as Kate). Right: Charlie Coniglio (as Petruchio)

Houston is the Artistic Director of Kings County Shakespeare Company (KCSC). Previously, she has directed the company in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1996), “The Rivals” (2000), and “The Tempest” (2002) and “Twelfth Night” (2006), among others. Two seasons ago, she directed two of Terry Quinn’s one act plays “Rappacini’s Daughter and Bad Evidence” for KCSC at the Abingdon Theatre.

At the end of this season, Houston will be retiring as Artistic Director after 24 years of service. Lucie Chin, who has been Festival Manager and Fight Director since 1987, will also be stepping down. This year, the company is celebrating them and their 24 years of service to the Brooklyn community and the larger NY classic theater audience

On her interpretation, Houston writes, “‘The Taming of the Shrew’ has long been one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, yet for many bardophiles the subjugation of Kate by Petruchio and Kate’s final speech extolling patriarchal ideals is more than a little troubling. The focus of my adaptation, therefore, is the attraction between Kate and Petruchio. They are meant for each other like ‘two raging fires consuming one another in their fury.’ Through this adaptation, I am exploring the price Petruchio must pay in sleep and food depravation in order to deny Kate the same comforts. Taming ‘a la Petruchio’ is hard, self-sacrificing work and I suspect Shakespeare’s Petruchio is far less certain of the outcome of his methods than the bravura of his pronouncements suggest. However, frustrated Kate may be with Petruchio’s wit and affability at their first meeting, these very qualities intrigue her enough to accept him as a husband, and to grieve her when Petruchio does not appear at the appointed time on their wedding day.

“When Liz Shipman and I founded KCSC in 1983, we instituted a tradition of having our actors, both men and women; arrive in the performance venue dressed as an all male company of players, just as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time. Our women, of course, would have been the boy actors and part of the improvised ‘prologue’ before each performance included the ‘boys’ dressing up in front of the audience as the female characters they were about to portray. In order to reinstate this tradition, I have replaced Shakespeare’s Induction to the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ with a prologue adapted from language taken from the players scenes in ‘Hamlet’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ For the rest, our audience will have to come and see for themselves and I hope they will engage us in conversation about this controversial comedy and our adaptation of it.”

Kings County Shakespeare Company (KCSC) is now moving into its 24th season and this will be its 50th mainstage production. The company occupies a special place among NYC’s classical companies, by virtue of its clear artistic direction and the high quality of its acting. The New York Times (D.J.R. Bruckner), reviewing the company’s last production of “The Taming of the Shrew” (in 2001, directed by Liz Shipman), wrote: “This company has become a fine ensemble. The easy command of Shakespeare’s language by the actors is impressive.”

Deborah Wright Houston and Liz Shipman at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in celebration of the Garden’s Shakespeare Day founded KCSC in 1983. Of its 49 productions since 1983, only eight have been by authors other than Shakespeare. With Houston and Shipman as co-artistic directors, the company achieved prominence while presenting Shakespeare under-the-stars in Prospect Park for thirteen seasons. KCSC went indoors at St. Francis College’s Founders Hall in 1999 and, in 2001, became the College’s resident classical theater company. In 2001, Liz Shipman left to accept a teaching post at Washington University in St. Louis and Renee Bucciarelli replaced her as Associate Artistic Director, serving until 2004. This was KCSC’s most prolific period. Since 2004, while its “home” performance space was unavailable due to renovations, KCSC mounted mainstage productions at the Chapel of the First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, Abingdon Theater in Manhattan and BRIC Studio in Brooklyn. This season, the company has returned to St. Francis College for rehearsals and support services, but the current production of “Taming of the Shrew” is being staged in the ART-NY building where KCSC has its management office.

KCSC is a founding member of Shakespeare Theater Association of America, a consortium of Shakespeare companies whose international members include various Canadian festivals, the New Globe in London and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England.

The actors are Rachel Alt (as Kate), Charlie Coniglio (as Petruchio), Jovis DePognon, Neimah Djourabchi, Mary Lou Kylis, Andrew Oswald, Brian Rhinehart, Joseph Small, Roger Dale Stude and Cotton Wright. The ensemble includes Dana Pagliara, Maria Giansante and Malena Negrao. Assistant Director and Stage manager is Norah Turnham. Technical director is Lucie Chin.

Performances are March 8 to March 19, 2007, at The Great Room, South Oxford Space, 138 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays: March 8, 9, 10, 12 and March 15, 16, 17, 19 at 8 p.m and Sundays: March 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults and $10 for students. Children under age 10 are free. The box office number is 212-868-4444. Online ticketing is available at www.smarttix.com.

Related Events

The 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday, March 11 will be followed by a free talk back with the director Deborah Wright Houston and the company to discuss Ms. Houston’s adaptation of “The Taming of the Shrew” and the themes in Shakespeare’s play as they may or may not apply to our modern outlook on courtship, marriage, gender and class.

The 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday, March 18 will be Family Day. Families with children will be admitted for $20 per family.

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.