10 September 2009

First Play Seen in DC--Shakespeare Theatre's Free For All

Oh the joy that free theatre brings to an unemployed gal living in the big city. There's nothing like it! And it was Shakespeare too, eeek!

The Shakespeare Theatre Company here in D.C. puts on a play every summer as part of their Free For All program, presented by Target this year. This year's play was The Taming of the Shrew and it was done inside the Sidney Harman Hall. I guess in the past they use to do this outside under the stars, which would have been amazing, but they've pulled it inside so as to avoid being rained out. Which really is a great idea, it allows all the performances to be available so everyone can find a chance to come and see.

Friends have told me that last summer they had trouble getting tickets, so I made sure to get their bright and early. I choose to go to a noon performance on a Wednesday and, turns out, that was probably the best decision. Tickets were handed out at 10 A.M. and I was fourth in line starting at 8:45 A.M.

The show was fantastic and so entertaining. I haven't laughed that hard at a Shakespeare performance in awhile (not that I'm able to attend hordes of those these days, anyways...) The audience, filled with people over the age of sixty and high schoolers (helllloooo, it's a noon performance on a weekday, whatdaya expect?), was the best kind, laughs and applause at all the right places, screams and giggles at all the lewd parts....it enhances your experience when the audience is that receptive.

The actors performed beautifully, I always admire the actors that can pull off Shakespeare well, and it is a difficult task. To be able to perform with those words, use your whole body and do it in a way that helps translate the plot to the audience is a gorgeous talent. I never tire of quality Shakespeare performances. My favorite people were Ian Merrill Peakes playing Petruchio (Hi there, cut-upper-body, you may be dressed in a woman's gown, but you's still hot....sigh), Sabrina LeBeauf as Katherina (she pulled that character off sooooo well, she deserved that standing ovation), Louis Butelli as Grumio (I need to see more of his work) and my absolute favorite was Bruce Nelson playing Tranio....that man has comedic prowess under his belt.

I can't stress enough how much of a benefit it is to a Shakespeare play to have full on physical comedy happening. The audience loves it and I think it helps pull you into what's going on with the characters. It just shows you how important it is, for an actor, to be in tune with their body because they can use it in so many ways to bring the story forward for the audience, especially useful with Shakespeare, when a lot of the time people can get lost because of the language. If you had seen this performance, you'll know what I'm talking about, like during the fight between Kate and Petruchio after they first meet.

I was thoroughly impressed with the creative use of lightening and the cash machine (cha-ching) sound effects. Who's the one that comes up with that stuff? The director or the tech people? You gotta respect the work that goes on behind the scenes...I know, I've done it....it takes a lot of creative energy and effort to pull off a great show.

I would love to meet the directors of this show, Rebecca Bayla Taichman (original director) and David Muse (listed as Director, for this show). The Taming of the Shrew is a good example of how Shakespeare's plays can be interpreted in so many different ways. I know my little sister saw a performance of it in London while studying abroad and she said she left feeling depressed and like she just witnessed a woman go through an abusive relationship, one where the husband wins. Where as I left this performance feeling like I witnessed a romantic comedy, full of insights into relationships and how men and women deal with each other. There is a fine line between love story and abuse story when it comes to this play and The Shakespeare Theatre really pulled it off in a great way. I love it when it's performed in this light. I think I need to go back and read it again...and it's moments like these that make me miss college and want to go back asap. Just so I can have like minded individuals, people with my same passion in theatre and the arts, to have a discussion with about plays.

Sigh....eh well...hopefully next year if I can get my freakin' act in gear.

Anywho....yeah for taking advantage of the city and doing it for free!! I'll keep ya'll posted on other such shinanigans that I can get myself into, hopefully for free as well. ;)

Charmed, Linds


  1. I chaperoned a field trip to see this play with 6th graders. It was at the U of M and the performers were about 13-18 years old. They did it as a 60's beach party setting...I think it was cute and funny, but I don't really think they completely pulled it off.

    I read through a summarized version of the story with the kids before we went and tried to find a way to help them understand that it wasn't supposed to represent abuse. Of course, I'm not a lit teacher at all, so I am not sure how well I did. The play was funny and had a lot of physical comedy, but the physicality almost made the relationship seem more abusive, just in a funny way. I think we all left feeling slightly uncomfortable and the 6th graders had a hard time following the story, so they were confused.

    To make a long story short (too late :P) I am jealous that you got to go this performance! I would love to see a version that really pulls off the comedy and helps you understand the building of the relationship rather than making it seem like he is trying to control her. Wish I could have come with you...damn you for being so far away! ;)

  2. Awww, I wish we lived closer to each other as well! That'd be so much fun. Maybe flights to MN are cheaper from DC than they were from Rochester...I'll have to check that out. If you come visit me here, I can take you to loads of Shakespeare plays, as we have 2 theatre's that put them on (and I'm working at one of them!).

    I think it's really cool that you took your students to see this play. Discussion afterwards, though, is sometimes quite necessary! I do wish you could have seen this performance, you would have liked it.