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Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Presents "The Taming Of The Shrew"

May 25-June 19 in Forest Park

(click for larger version)
May 20, 2011
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Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park is being transformed once again, as Shakespeare Festival St. Louis prepares for its 11th production, "The Taming of the Shrew."

What looks remarkably like a 1950s tract house has taken up residence in the festival's outdoor space near the Saint Louis Art Museum – a definite departure from the gothic set constructed for last year's performance of "Hamlet."

"This production is inspired by the 1950s, and set in a 1950s backyard in America," said Rick Dildine, executive director of Shakespeare St. Louis. "I know audience members are going to arrive and go, 'I grew up in that house!'

"The play really deals with the roles of men and women and the dynamic of relationships: what it takes to be in one, what it takes to maintain one," said Dildine. "The iconic 1950s, particularly the roles between men and women, is a time period we thought people could respond to. It's a time that quickly defines the roles of the sexes."

The remarkable set was created under the guidance of set designer Scott C. Neale. Lighting designer John Wylie, head of production programs at Webster University, is working his magic, along with resident composer Robin Weatherall, an alum of Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company.

This model of a 1950s tract house is being recreated in Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. The full-scale version of the house, complete with swimming pool and vintage trailer, will serve as the setting for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ 1950s-inspired production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
"The Taming of the Shrew" cast and crew have some big shoes to fill, coming on the heels of last year's award-winning production of "Hamlet." "Hamlet" garnered Shakespeare Festival St. Louis three Kevin Kline Awards in 2010: best play, best actor and best sound design.

"Our goal is to enhance the Shakespeare experience every year and make it accessible to people," said Dildine. "We want to take all of our work to the schools, to the streets, and ultimately end in the park, doing the best for the most people, for the least amount of money."

Bringing Shakespeare To The People

Shakespeare's comedy, "The Taming of the Shrew," tells the story of headstrong Kate and her suitor, Petruchio, who pursues and finally "tames" the reluctant bride.

"Everybody I meet in St. Louis really loves the Shakespeare Festival. I'm excited to bring this play to an audience, and see how the audience reacts to it." - Sean Graney, Director (click for larger version)
Dildine has assembled a stellar artistic team for his second production as executive director of the festival.

Sean Graney, artistic director and founder of The Hypocrites theater company in Chicago, is directing "The Taming of the Shrew." The award-winning Graney was recently named Chicagoan of the Year (in theater) by the Chicago Tribune. Dildine calls him "one of the most exciting directors in the country."

Graney and Dildine began the creative process last year with talks about the direction the production should take.

"Being in the park, I thought it would be interesting to set 'The Taming of the Shrew' in a drive-in movie theater in the 1950s," said Graney. "We eventually just decided to have it inspired by the 1950s. There are moments that stray from the '50s; we don't want people to be bogged down with those period aspects.

"I'm super excited," said Graney. "Everybody I meet in St. Louis really loves the Shakespeare Festival. I'm excited to bring this play to an audience, and see how the audience reacts to it. I just hope everybody likes it!"

Costume designer Alison Siple, another Chicagoan, has been working endless hours with her team to create the many 1950s "rockabilly" inspired costumes that will outfit over a dozen cast members.

"We're not trying to do an exact recreation of the '50s; there are a lot of contemporary flavors thrown in there." - Alison Siple, Costume Designer (click for larger version)
"We're not trying to do an exact recreation of the '50s; there are a lot of contemporary flavors thrown in there," said Siple. "There will be a lot of costume changes. A lot of people in this play disguise themselves as other people."

Siple has been in St. Louis since April, making a couple of shopping trips back to Chicago. She didn't want to give away too many secrets, but she did say that Shakespeare's script has Petruchio showing up for his wedding "in something that everyone finds completely inappropriate."

"It definitely involves some antlers and a cape," said Siple.

Outreach & Education

"We have a huge commitment to education," said Dildine. "Annually we reach about 25,000 people a year through our programs. The most well-known is our educational tour. We take two plays on the road; one is always a 50-minute version of the play in the park."

Costume designer Alison Siple has worked endless hours with her team to create the many 1950s-inspired costumes that will outfit more than a dozen cast members. (click for larger version)
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis takes on social issues as well in its educational programs. "Cruel to be Kind," a companion piece to the educational tour's "Shrew in a Few" production, tackles the issue of bullying.

"We reach K-12 students all over the St. Louis area, and we're starting to expand as far west as St. Joseph," said Dildine. The festival holds camp classes as well. To learn more, visit www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org.

"The Taming of the Shrew"

"The Taming of the Shrew" opens May 27 and runs through June 19, 8 to 10 p.m. nightly, except Tuesdays. Preview performances are May 25 and 26. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Thursday performances are signed for the hearing impaired.

Green Show entertainment is held at 6:30 p.m. on performance nights, featuring a 20-minute adaptation of the play to introduce the characters and the plot; musicians, dancers, singers and jugglers; and conversations on the lawn by local scholars.

New this year are backstage tours at 6 p.m. before each performance, with a nominal ticket price of $2, ages 5 and up. After every show are 20-minute "Talk Back" events, sponsored by Maryville University.

"We'll gather under a tree and a Talk Back leader will lead a very informal discussion about the show, and what the audience thought about the show," said Dildine.

Another addition to Shakespeare Festival St. Louis are the Friday and Saturday night after-parties (except opening night), held at the top of Shakespeare Glen.

"Our lounge lobby area is called Marvin's, in honor of our first chairman of the board, Marvin Moskowitz," said Dildine. "We'll re-open the bar and have a local St. Louis band playing. You can hang out until about 11 o'clock, grab a drink, and not fight the traffic."

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