Date of Thesis
In Fall 2021, I directed my own adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, entitled “Taming of the Shrew(s).” This project served as both the creative portion of my honors thesis as well as a Senior Showcase within the Bucknell Department of Theatre & Dance. From a young age, I have been fascinated by the malleability of Shakespeare’s plays, and having acted in and seen multiple productions of The Taming of the Shrew, my project began with a desire to take on the gendered complexities of this so-called “problem play.” The Taming of the Shrew is problematic in its sexist depiction of courting and married life. The central premise revolves around a male, Petruchio, “taming” a female, Katherine, as one might tame a bird or an animal. In the play, Kate is shamed for being a purported “shrew,” and it is on the grounds of her “shrewishness” that Petruchio feels entitled to tear her clothes, starve her, and deprive her of sleep. However, the play itself calls into question who the “real” shrew may be, with a secondary character named Curtis saying, “By this reck’ning, he is more shrew than she” (4.1.79).
Because I didn’t understand how a text could seemingly be played for laughs at a wife’s expense while also showcasing a fierce and brilliant woman, I decided to explore how the very same script could be performed in drastically different ways, especially if actors altered their intonation, movement, and/or interactions with each other. Thus, I adapted Shakespeare’s text, cutting it down to a 25-minute script which would be performed three times, with three sets of actors playing Katherine and Petruchio, and with each version taking on a distinct interpretation of their power dynamics. I then cast, rehearsed, and devised additional parts of the script in collaboration with my actors, particularly a series of interstitial sections where the three Katherines addressed the audience, taking on the blatant sexism within the text. Ultimately, my cast performed the “Taming of the Shrew(s)” three times from September 24th–26th, 2021.
In this thesis, then, I discuss my process of conceiving of, researching, and adapting Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew into the “Taming of the Shrew(s),” and I also detail my directorial decisions. In Section I, I introduce my project and examine the overall cultural perception of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In Section II, I analyze how the original text of The Taming of the Shrew supports the three distinct interpretations I directed in the “Taming of the Shrew(s).” In Section III, I explore the performance history of The Taming of the Shrew from the Renaissance to the present day, touching on previous performances and adaptations that influenced my project. In Section IV, I talk about the process of adapting Shakespeare’s script, including how my adaptation occurred both on the page and also through the rehearsal process, creating moments of theatre in collaboration with my actors. In this section, I also discuss the technical choices I made for the costumes, props, and the set of my production. In Section V, I offer a conclusion about why the “Taming of the Shrew(s)” strives to ask questions about gender and power rather than answer them. Finally, my Supplementary Materials include a recording of the “Taming of the Shrew(s)” performance, my adapted script, and production photos, while my Appendix provides artifacts from the production, including samples of my notes, props and costume sheets, and production posters.
Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare, Directing, Dramatic Literature, Gender, Adaptation
Bachelor of Arts
Theatre & Dance
Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration
Acting and Directing
Cognard-Black, Katharine, ""Taming of the Shrew(s)": Explorations of Gender and Power in Directing an Original Adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew" (2021). Honors Theses. 588.