The Monroe County Civic Theater continues its Shakespeare in the Park series Thursday and Friday with its production of "The Taming of the Shrew" at Third Street Park's Outdoor Stage.
Rance Fawbush, vice-president of MCCT and an active participant in Shakespeare in the Park, said the series is designed to appeal to the sensibilities of a wide audience and to have an enduring popularity. The series, which is free to the public, was established in 1992.
"It is free and one of the few venues to watch Shakespeare regularly," Fawbush said. "We attract many theatergoers -- some of the audience members are fascinated by the contemporary sets in Shakespearean plays and the children are fascinated by the costumes."
Fawbush said the outdoor setting adds to the play's authenticity and charm.
"The outdoor setting makes it closer to the original setting," Fawbush said.
Fawbush also said the theater fans were soaked at last year's performance of "Much Ado about Nothing," courtesy of sporadic showers. Throughout the rain the cast continued its performance while audience members pulled out their umbrellas, stood up and endured the downpour, which Fawbush claimed brought them closer to the experience of theatergoers from an earlier time.
Ellen MacKay, a professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance drama at IU, said "The Taming of the Shrew" has deep political undertones that make it a popular choice for academic scrutiny.
"This early comedy is notoriously politically fraught," MacKay said. "Even the midcentury musical adaptation 'Kiss Me Kate' has proved difficult to retain in the repertoire for its objectionable treatment of women."
MacKay said she believes the popularity of "The Taming of the Shrew" in the high school curriculum and academia is related to its readability and controversial politics.
Frank Buczolich, president of MCCT and director of "The Taming of the Shrew," said the group chose to produce the play this year because it hasn't been performed in Bloomington recently.
"MCCT tries to present a wide range of plays," Buczolich said. "We look at contemporary productions and try to fill in the blanks. The last time we produced 'The Taming' was eight years ago, so a production seemed due."
MacKay said she was concerned about how women are treated in the play.
"In production, the play tends to reproduce rather than interrogate early modern sexism, and in worst-case scenarios it injects that misogynist legacy into contemporary culture," MacKay said.
Professor Linda Charnes who teaches Shakespeare at IU said she didn't like how most productions of "The Taming of the Shrew" make light of the violence against Katharine in the play, but added that contemporary updates to the play have been positive.
"So much can be done simply by tweaking the acting to bring it up to date," Charnes said. "In mass cultural versions, the war between the sexes is treated as a light banter between two people who really are attracted to each other."
Buczolich said he believes a significant portion of the family audience find the "comic" elements of the original script appealing.
"It is easy to look at the play and talk about the gender troubles," Buczolich said. "But what needs to be realized is that both Kate and Petruchio are into a partnership."
MacKay said she believes the MCCT's courage and efforts in putting on such a challenging production must be appreciated. She said she thought this performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" looks promising not only for students of Shakespearean and Renaissance theater, but for anyone interested in poetry, drama or gender politics.
In its outdoor setting, MCCT's productions of Shakespeare are as close as Bloomington residents can get to a free sample of a performance at The Globe.
-- Contact staff writer Sheeba Madan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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