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‘Taming of the Shrew’ at McPherson College Places Shakespeare Play in Pirate Cove

Buckle your swashes, hoist the mainstay, and prepare for… Shakespeare?

Yes, the opening production of the 2015-2016 theatre season at McPherson College will be “The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare – but with a pirate-themed, Caribbean twist in its setting. The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. in Mingenback Theatre Sept. 10-12.

Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre, said that he was working with students last year to decide on senior shows, and they chose “The Taming of the Shrew” one of them. When discussing setting, one of the seniors said that they always wanted to be in a play about pirates. Tyler thought – Why not?

“It doesn’t really matter where it’s at,” he said. “As pirates, we can go anywhere.”

In “The Taming of the Shrew,” three young men in Padua, Italy, are all trying to win the hand of a beautiful woman named Bianca. Bianca’s father, however, refuses to allow Bianca to marry until there’s a suitor for her ill-tempered older sister, Katherine – the “Shrew” of the title.

The suitors’ dilemma is solved by a friend of one of them – the brash, wild Petruchio – who agrees to marry Katherine sight-unseen. In a series of comedic episodes during their wedding and honeymoon – Petruchio “tames” Katherine by essentially wearing her down claiming his undying love as the excuse. For example, he doesn’t allow her to eat or sleep for several days, saying he won’t allow her to eat inferior food or sleep in an inferior bed.

At the end, Petruchio makes a bet with Bianca’s new husband about who married the better woman. They agree that whoever can get their wife to come when they call will have won the bet. Bianca – “untamed” – refuses to come, but a humbler and more loving Katherine comes to Petruchio.

If it all seems rather misogynistic, that’s because it is. “The Taming of the Shrew” was a product of the times in which Shakespeare wrote it. Without changing the script, however, (apart from the occasional addition of an “Aye, Cap’n” to have fun with the pirates setting) Tyler and the student actors are presenting the play in a much more egalitarian and balanced way.

Through tone of voice, posture and other physical gestures, the actors show that Petruchio has come to truly love Katherine and that he’s also changed – from being a brash, wild, violent young man into being a caring and compassionate husband.

In short, Katherine also “tames” Petruchio.

“It’s breaking that mold that the men are always in charge,” Tyler said.

Addie Johnson, senior, McPherson, Kan., plays Katherine in the play as her senior project at MC. In a behind-the-scenes twist, her mother and father on the stage are also her mother and father in real life.

“It’s fun,” Johnson said. “This is the first time I’ve done Shakespeare.”

The pirates setting has been enjoyable, Tyler said, but has also presented some interesting and difficult challenges. For example, it’s a costume-intensive show. In particular, after the popularity of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series of movies, it’s especially difficult to secure costumes that don’t look like Johnny Depp’s character of Captain Jack Sparrow. The language was a double challenge, too – both having to learn and understand Shakespearean language and having to do it with a “Pirate” accent.

Tickets to “The Taming of the Shrew” cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at theatre@mcpherson.edu.

Cast includes: Logan Schrag, sophomore, McPherson, Kan. (Lucentio); Chandler Dohe, sophomore, Limon, Colo. (Tranio); Aubrey Hollinger, sophomore, Lyons, Kan. (Bianca); Michele Johnson ’89 of McPherson, Kan., (Baptista’s Wife); Eric Johnson ’89 of McPherson, Kan. (Baptista); Addie Johnson, senior, McPherson, Kan. (Katherine); Brandt Busse ’06, director of residence life and residence director of Metzler Hall (Hortensio); Joshua Hall, senior, Tonganoxie, Kan. (Gremio); Ashley Burch, freshman, Pittsburg, Kan. (Baptista’s Servant); Brett Crist, freshman, Quinter, Kan. (Biondello); Chris Rakowski, senior, Joppa, Md. (Petruchio); Lora Kirmer, senior, Holly, Colo. (Grumio); Alex Barmore, freshman, Lakewood, Colo. (Curtis); Connor Kresky, freshman, McPherson, Kan. (Nathaniel); James Covel, senior, Goddard, Kan. (Phillip); Johnathan Feaster, junior, Harrisburg, N.C. (Tailor); Ashley Burch, freshman, Pittsburg, Kan. (Haberdasher); Rick Tyler (Merchant); Dr. Josh Norris, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities (Vincentio); Marissa Patton, junior, Tribune, Kan. (Widow)

Crew includes: Rick Tyler (Designer and Director); Whitney Murray, sophomore, Kansas City, Kan. (Stage Manager); Eric Johnson (Technical Director); Karl Timmerman, junior, Tulsa, Okla.; Johnathan Feaster, junior, Harrisburg, N.C.; Whitney Murray, Ashley Burch (Set & Paint); Crystal Osner, junior, Conway Springs, Kan.; and Addie Johnson (Costumes).