Connecticut Free Shakespeare presents Taming of the Shrew

Bridgeport-based Connecticut Free Shakespeare and Festival! Stratford are moving heaven and earth this year to bring a professional production of Shakespeare’s most boisterous comedy to the public for free.

A skillful, hilarious adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew will be performed on the grounds of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford from Wednesday, Aug. 17, through Sunday, Aug. 21, from 8 to 10 p.m. The play is appropriate for all ages, including the very, very young.

Actors are courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association. It is traditional for attendees to picnic ahead of time to get seating nearest the stage. There will be music by Jazz for the Spirit on the lawn from 6 to 8 p.m. courtesy of Festival! Stratford.

The grounds of the theatre are on the banks of the Housatonic River. The moon will be full on the 18th.

Actors from from the local area include:

  • Stephen Saxton of Ridgefield
  • Becca Schneider of Astoria, N.Y.who grew up in Greenwich
  • Joslyn Eaddy  of Bridgeport
  • Marca Leigh of Stratford
  • Patrick Setiadi of Bridgeport
  • Phoebe Wright of Fairfield

Daunted but not immobilized by cuts in funding and seemingly unending personal tragedies this year, the hugely popular, 17-year- old CFS found an ally and an enabler in Matt Catalano of Stratford.

Catalano believes down to his core that a town named Stratford has a duty to honor the brilliancy of the greatest playwright of all time, “particularly on the occasion of the 400th year anniversary of his death.”

Catalano called on Festival! Stratford and his professional connections to work with what is arguably Connecticut’s most beloved and popular outdoor theater company. They were

delighted to oblige.

Catalano found himself as executive producer of Festival! Stratford 2016 and associate producer of Taming of the Shrew. The collaboration has resulted in a crowd-pleasing show.

Artistic Director Ellen Lieberman said she has drawn on the broad comedy and physical humor of commedia dell’arte in adapting and retelling the play.

“This is our silliest show to date,” she said. “It is all about love. It is joyful!”

Lieberman and her husband, producer Bert Garskof, laughed a lot in describing some of the slapstick antics in the production.

“We call our ensemble cast the ‘Bing Bang Boing-ers,” said Garskof. “We have a lot of practical sound cues.”

Lieberman said that actress Rebekah Dunn, “the queen of practical sound cues” (such as the slider) will fly in from California to assist in directing.

Dunn charmed CFS audiences most recently in Stratford as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She is co-owner of Much Ado About Shakespeare LLC.

Emmy Award-winning set designer Liz Popiel and Alejandro Lopez, CFS master of all trades, designed a set that also reflects the commedia dell’arte genre. Costume designer Valarie Henry has incorporated jester-like patterns and geometrics in outfitting the ensemble players to augment the visual effect of their bold acting.

This year’s AEA actors and Equity membership candidates hail from California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York and include CFS veterans as well as new faces.

Tale of two sisters

Taming of the Shrew is the tale of two sisters. Beautiful and gentle Bianca is sought after by many suitors. Her father, Baptista, will not allow her to marry until her feisty and strong-willed sister Katharina, much inclined to quarreling, is married and off his hands.

Bianca’s suitors conspire and persuade a fortune hunter named Petruchio to woo Katherina, all expenses paid.

Petruchio sets a date and marries the reluctant “Kate,” wearing a ridiculous outfit to embarrass her. He carries her off to his country home, intending to browbeat her into submission. He tests her by denying her just about everything while constantly singing her praises. She tests him in turn, and they ultimately establish a happy, loving relationship.

When they return to Padua, the men at a gathering wager on who has the most obedient wife. Kate is the only wife who answers her husband’s summons. Kate gives the others a sincere lecture on how to attain a positive and joyous marriage.

Lieberman’s adaptation of this crowd-pleasing play will have the audience members, young and old, whooping with glee. Those who wonder why Shakespeare’s plays have endured for over 400 years won’t wonder any more.

Connecticut Free Shakespeare

Connecticut Free Shakespeare (CFS) was founded in 2000 as an offshoot of Dandelion Productions. It is a non-profit theater company whose mission is to produce free-to- the-public professional works of classical theater in an accessible, skillful, imaginative American style that honors the playwright’s language and intentions and that crafts these plays with a 21st century sensibility.

CFS is committed to mounting productions that make the works of great playwrights accessible to a broad range of audience members, including those not familiar with their work, without jeopardizing artistic integrity.

Stratford Connecticut is one of six Stratfords around the globe that celebrate a shared culture and unique qualities.  Stratfordians from Connecticut and Ontario Canada set up a sister cities program of cultural and social events in 1985, shortly afterwards joined by their inspirational namesake from Warwickshire.

Towns from Prince Edward Island Canada, Australia and New Zealand expanded the group in the late 1990s

Taming of the Shrew

Taming of the Shrew is sponsored by Actor’s Equity Association, Festival! Stratford, Avram and Rhoda Freedberg Family Foundation, Norma Terris-Albert Firestone Foundation, The WorkPlace, Klein Memorial Auditorium (audition space) and Bridgeport Innovation Center.

For more information, go to ctfreeshakespeare.org or facebook.com/CT Free Shakespeare.

Information on other Festival! Stratford programming can be found at festivalstratford.org.

The charm of an outdoor Connecticut Free Shakespeare production is captured in this 2014 ensemble cast photo of As You Like It.

The charm of an outdoor Connecticut Free Shakespeare production is captured in this 2014 ensemble cast photo of As You Like It.

 

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