Annotations, Part II: Taming of the Script

Today we return to the subject of annotation in playwriting. POW casting director Melinda Marks tells us the tone that she’d adapt in her version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew:

shreMelinda:

I get why people have a problem with the play, and I saw a version of it in Virginia that was very true to the script; it wasn’t edited at all. It was played very straight. For some reason, it didn’t sit well with me, and not because I wasn’t comfortable with the play. It was because I thought it was a cop-out. The actress who played Kate played it completely straight, like she was having this revelation. In my optimum version of the play, you have this guy who comes to Mantua to get a wife because he’s rich as heck, and he has all these landholdings and all this money, and now he wants to accumulate more wealth for his retirement. He wants to marry a rich woman to get a good dowry and increase his landholdings.

If the richest guy in town’s daughter is kind of a bitch and a half, it doesn’t matter to him, because it’s an investment. And everybody is so eager to get rid of her that they agree to this. But he meets her and likes her, because what he doesn’t expect is how witty she is, because nobody says that. Nobody says, she’s smart, or she gets all those zingers in. Everybody says she’s terrible. So then he meets her and he likes her.

I want to see a version where he sees that he has all this, and has this wife, and he realizes that he doesn’t know how to be a husband. He wants to know how to get control of the situation because he’s a businessman. He has no confidence. This is how I always thought about it. How is he going to deal with the fact that now he’s secured this investment, but it’s so unstable? So he tries to.

There are things that can justify this in the script; you just have to find them and you have to bring them to the surface. He’s acting mean to keep her off balance. The annotations that I made show that he doesn’t know what else to do. There’s a moment in the middle of that, when she’s been living at his house and acting crazy for a couple days, she says, in so many words, “Listen: I have to say what I feel. Because if I keep what I feel inside, I will die. My heart will break. I have to be free. You can’t keep me from being who I am, because at the very least, I will say what I please. And if you love me or you don’t, that’s it.”

It’s in the script. I didn’t have to change anything.

Julia:
So what appeals to you about this play?

Melinda:
I want the dynamic between the two of them to be frank. I want to see him sweat.  I want to see him not be confident. In a lot of versions he’s made to be very confident, like he’s had this plan all along, to tame this woman. But he didn’t have an idea. His idea was to get money. And he did. He improved his status significantly, and beyond that I want to see him sweat it out. I want to see him not in his element.

Julia:
It’s like that horrible song, “Blurred Lines”.

Melinda:
Not really. That song said, “of course you want to be with me.” It’s a different vibe. But I want to see a version where Petruchio is really nervous.

Julia:
So are you going to write that version?

Melinda:
The version is already there. It’s all there.

Julia:
You’re going to adapt that?

Melinda:
I don’t even have to. I just have to make cuts.

Julia:
Are you going to do it for Play On Words?

Melinda:
It’s a Shakespeare play, so, no. Are we prepared to mount a full Shakespeare play?

Julia:
Not at all. But we could workshop it.

Melinda:
Oh my gosh. But I want to see him sweat. I don’t want to see her get psychologically tortured. I don’t mind her being vaguely uncomfortable.I don’t mind her thinking, is he trying to break my will? I don’t mind that, but when she says listen, this is who I am, that’s the moment.

I want that to be the moment where they decide that they are going to have to make this work on each other’s terms. That is what is missing from a lot of other versions. And it’s not because they don’t try to make it seem like he’s right or that she comes out on top.

I’ve seen a lot of versions like that. I want to cut the script into something where, not only does Kate come out on top and feel that she can make this marriage successful in her own right, even though she didn’t get married on her own terms. I want to see this guy squirm. I would like a version where the two of them recognize that about each other and are able to move on based on that.

Tune in next week to learn how annotation can shed light on the creative process. Don’t forget: we need submissions, especially works of theater! Email submissions for our spring show to playonwordssj@gmail.com

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