Story last updated at 3/9/2009 - 10:30 am
JUNEAU - Theatre in the Rough foundering couple Aaron Elmore and Katie Jenson have played so many dysfunctional couples in their joint theatrical history that playing Petruchio and Katherina in "The Taming of the Shrew" might seem like a model relationship in comparison.
"Katie and I have a long history of playing some of the most strange relationships imaginable," Elmore said, such as the couples in "Long Christmas Ride Home" and "The Waiting Room." But Elmore and Jenson have thought for years about playing Katherina, the title "shrew" whom no man can tame, and her suitor Petruchio, with no money to his name.
"Ever since we met and wanted to start a theatre, this has been on the horizon," Elmore said.
Elmore or Jenson usually direct the Theatre in the Rough productions, but with roles this big, they would decided they'd be better off with another director. Longtime Juneau actor Ed Christian will make his directing debut.
"He's doing great," Elmore said. "He's a real nurturing guy."
"Taming of the Shrew" is a play within the play, with a framing device called the Induction. Some productions omit the Induction, but Elmore believes it is an important part of the play, and much in keeping with the spirit of Theatre in the Rough.
"It helps the audience refocus on the fact that they're watching a performance," he said.
Christian plays Christopher Sly in the Induction, a drunkard who is tricked into thinking he's a nobleman by a Lord. A play is then performed for his entertainment.
"(The audience will see) Christopher Sly sleeping through the first act," Elmore said. "Hopefully the audience won't be!"
The play Sly watches is about two sisters, Bianca (played by Megan Behnke), who has several suitors competing for her affections, and Katherina (Kate), whom no man will touch until Petruchio arrives in town. Kate may be a "shrew," but Petruchio is no great catch by outward appearances either.
"In our reading of this, Petruchio doesn't have a pot to piss in," Elmore said. "He doesn't have any illusions about finding a romantic match. (But) he meets her and falls for her completely."
Disguises of all kinds are used by characters in the inside play. All costume changes in the productions are characters dressing up as someone else - often in an exaggerated, clownish costume.
"Society is very interested in money (and) outer appearances," Elmore said. "Katherina doesn't care anything about that. Suddenly someone shows up who doesn't lie (to her). By the end of the play they come to a great understanding."
For years scholars and audiences have debated over the reading of the play. Does Petruchio really "tame" Kate? Yes, Elmore said, but Kate also tames Petruchio.
"It's not a general set piece about Elizabethan society, it's about how men and women treat each other," Elmore said. "It's pretty clear in our production (that) there are two shrews. (Petruchio) learns right along with (Kate)."
"Taming of the Shrew" runs March 5-22 with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Performances will be held at the Old Elks Hall on Franklin Street. Tickets are available at Hearthside.