Meaning in Mad Attire

“Clothes,” Mark Twain once observed, “make the man.” Clothing indeed plays a pivotal role in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Servants, noblemen, widows, schoolgirls, merchants, musicians: the play is replete with disguises and costumes that are the stuff designers’ dreams are made on. Without a doubt the strangest garb of the play is swaggering Petruchio’s bridal wear. Petruchio has courted Katharine the Curst in a whirlwind of verbal insult and clever wordplay, promising to return on Sunday for the wedding of the century. Headstrong Katharine finds herself caught somewhere between “Over my dead body” and “I thought this day would never come”; but as Sunday dawns, she is ready—if somewhat unwilling—to wed. However, when Petruchio arrives, he is attired in such a way that the entire wedding party is scandalized. Shakespeare spends a full twenty lines describing the repugnance of Petruchio’s and his horse’s getups: mismatched, rusty, worn, moth-eaten, unfashionable, yellowed, and patched. (And let’s not forget gaudy—the horse is wearing velvet riding gear with Katharine’s initials in randomly placed studs. A sort of Elizabethan vanity plate–how sweet!) The servant Tranio is so embarrassed that he offers his own clothes to the indecorous Petruchio. To which the motley bridegroom roars, “To me she’s married, not unto my clothes.” Yes, Tranio, there is “some meaning in his mad attire.” It seems that Petruchio has bedecked himself in the ugliness of Katharine’s own soul, right there in the bedazzling daylight before God and these witnesses. His clothes are repulsive and garish, jaded and cumbersome. Katharine may not have at that moment recognized herself in Petruchio’s looking-glass. But she soon shall. Clothes have made the man; now they may make the woman. And so the taming begins.

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Shakespeare Fans

Yesterday someone stopped me at the post office and said, “I can’t wait for this summer’s play. Summer Shakespeare is the reason I love Shakespeare.” Wow. Did that ever make my day! I mean, that’s part of why The Greenville Shakespeare Company and Summer Shakespeare are in existence: to make folks–little ones, big ones, and all the ones in between–fall in love with one of the greatest authors of some of the greatest stories of all time. As designers, actors, technical crew, and director, we’re really just storytellers. And if our story isn’t clear, we haven’t done our jobs.

On June 27 (opening night, if you don’t already know!) get ready to sit back and enjoy this summer’s rendition of Taming of the Shrew, it’s the story of “two raging fires” that “together . . . consume the thing that feeds their fury.” Enter Kate the Curst and Petruchio the, well, Stubborn. They both have a lot to learn.

That lady in the post office and others like her are who we’re thinking about when we conceive our summer plays–from design to script cutting to execution. Summer Shakespeare wants your Shakespeare to be understandable, affordable, and enlightening. Oh, and did I mention fun?

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William (the Bobblehead) Shakespeare

William Shakespeare BobbleheadSome of you may remember our William Shakespeare bobblehead, the Summer Shakespeare mascot. He’s made appearances in several of our recent plays. He was one of the Russians’ gifts in Love’s Labor’s Lost (’06); he wore a grass skirt in The Tempest (’08); he sported on the windowsill in Two Gentlemen of Verona (’09).

Now he’s back in our 2010 Twelfth Night. In this year’s cameo he is once again presented to a lady (pictured here with David Bean, Count Orsino). And he’s received with, well, just what you might expect a bobblehead to be received with. Smirks. Snorts. Guffaws. Eye-rolls. Will just smiles that enigmatic smile of his and nods to the audience. What a professional.

Who knows where Will might show up next? We only know that he will most likely return somehow, somewhere. He’s a quirky guy. But we’ve grown accustomed to his wobbly little face.

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Why Twelfth Night?

Sir Toby and friends

The tradition of Twelfth Night has its origins in the medieval celebration of a winter festival. Festivities often began at the end of October and continued through the Twelve Days of Christmas. At the end of the festival, noblemen changed places with peasants for an evening of “misrule.” At the stroke of midnight, all that was topsy-turvy was restored to the normal order. Today the celebration usually begins on Christmas Day and ends on the sixth of January.

William Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night, or What You Will as entertainment for the Christmas season in 1601 or 1602. The first known performance was on February 2, 1602, at the Middle Temple in London. (February 2, or Candlemas, marks the date that church tradition has it that Jesus was presented at the temple.) Scholars believe that the play was based on a short story by Matteo Bandello.

The world of the play is true to the tradition of misrule: girls masquerade as boys; servants run rampant; friends become enemies; and lo, how the mighty are fallen. At the end of Twelfth Night, as in life, order will out at last. Viola will present herself “in [her] woman’s weeds”; Sir Toby and his gang resume their roles as servants; the offended Antonio and his longtime friend Sebastian are reconciled, and the much-maligned Malvolio must be “entreated to a peace.” When Olivia states near the play’s conclusion that “Alas, poor fool, how have they baffled you,” she speaks about and for the “whole pack” of players. It is, of course, our hope that Summer Shakespeare’s play will not puzzle the audience but will instead serve to entertain and instruct.

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Play Prep

Granville-Barker's Twelfth Night

Harley Granville-Barker's 1912 Twelfth Night

So you’re convinced that it’s time to go to the theatre (Summer Shakespeare, of course). Now what? There are several things you can do to prepare yourself.

First, read the play or a good adaptation of it. No Fear Shakespeare (brought to you by the folks at Spark Notes) puts Shakespeare’s text alongside a modern “translation.” (There’s even an iPod Touch app!) Reading the play before you see it will add to your understanding as well as your enjoyment. Young children–and perhaps many adults–will profit from a graphic version. For those of you who haven’t kept up with trends in book publishing, graphic novels (think comic books, only longer and with better content) and stories have become mainstream.

Another idea is to find information about the play’s author or articles written by dramaturgs and critics. Websites such as enotes.com, Cummings study guides, even Cliffs Notes will heighten your awareness of characters and themes. Sometimes a cinematic version of the play will give additional clues about the play.

Your final chance to prepare yourself comes at the theatre itself. Settle yourself in your seat, take in the scene design, then read your program–be it a cast list only or a detailed booklet of essays on the play. The program will let you know what a particular director and designers believe to be important about the play you’re about to see.

Whatever your prep method–or even if you like your theatre impromptu–enjoy the experience!

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The Joys of Live Theatre

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

Why, you may ask yourself, should I bother spending the time and energy to attend a live theatrical performance? The question holds different answers for different people, but three main reasons spring immediately to mind: for entertainment, for interaction, and for personal development.

Attending a play (or any live performance) is a painless and relatively inexpensive form of entertainment. The theatregoer simply secures a ticket and goes to the theatre. There he can enjoy a story, unwind from the burdens of home and/or work, and inform himself of other times or places or people groups. Theatre allows audiences to relax and enjoy someone else’s foibles for a few moments before confronting their own—perhaps with a renewed commitment not to fall prey to the same mistakes of the onstage character.
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Behind the Scenes

gcs-colorThis post is to let you know what GSC is up to during our “off season.” Although we’re not in rehearsals yet, we’re still busy. Here’s a sampling of what’s going on behind the scenes. . .

•September 2009—GSC sponsored the second Brave New World Theatre Workshop, a no-cost workshop, dinner, and an evening of theatre for middle and high school teachers.

•November 2009—GSC partnered with Fuller Normal School to bring 8 students and 2 teachers to a performance of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations sponsored by Bob Jones University.

•December 2009—GSC took five theatre artists to Brashier Middle College High School for a three-day student workshop.

•January 2010—GSC received a generous grant from the Metropolitan Arts Council.

•Coming in March 2010—GSC will offer drama classes at Piano Central Studios for young theatre enthusiasts. (Sign up through Piano Central Studios.)

As we continue to grow and to expand our educational endeavors, outside donations become more and more important. GSC would like to give special thanks to following two local businesses for their generous support in 2009-2010:

Raymond W. Godwin—building happy families through the adoption process for more than twenty years

Piano Central Studios—offering the best musical learning opportunity possible

If you would like more information about GSC’s educational outreaches or would like to become involved by donating, please click here for further details.

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Thanks to Our 2009 Sponsors

During this season of thanksgiving, Greenville Shakespeare Company and Summer Shakespeare are exceedingly grateful to our wonderful sponsors. For the 2009 summer/fall season, we enjoyed the patronage of three diverse entities: Figgywhig’s Cupcakes, located in the Upstate Children’s Museum, made available mouthwatering (really, they are; just ask Jeff Stegall, who ate one or two per night for the entire seventeen-performance run!) gourmet cupcakes in luscious flavors like chocolate raspberry truffle, creamsicle, strawberries-n-cream, and peanut butter cup. The Greenville Humane Society seeks to promote and improve the quality of life and humane treatment of animals. These folks provided support on their website and through a well-timed television ad featuring our own Julia (Rebecca Clements). And the Metropolitan Arts Council, an organization that supports area arts groups and artists through a grants program and by promoting those who might not have resources available to them. (Like the Greenville Shakespeare Company!) MAC infused Summer Shakespeare with start-up money and email blasted the arts community with information about our performances. Thank you, 2009 sponsors!

A future blog will feature our 2010 sponsors. To find out more about becoming a GSC sponsor, click here.

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Summer Shakespeare’s Silvia

This Summer Shakespeare rendition of “Who Is Silvia?” from Two Gentlemen of Verona was a smash-hit this summer and during the reprise this fall. The actors/singers are Philip Eoute as Thurio, Zach Franzen as Proteus, and Jeffrey Stegall as Launce. The tune was written by Dave McQuaid. The white ukelele was ordered from Hawaii especially for this scene (as opposed to being spray-painted, which is usually what happens). Note the Shakespeare bobblehead on the window sill.

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Congrats to FiggyWhig’s!

FWlogoprototypeSummer Shakespeare sends its heartiest congratulations to FiggyWhig’s Cupcakes, one of our 2009 summer play sponsors and the official bakery for the newly opened Children’s Museum of the Upstate in downtown Greenville, SC. Those of you who tried a FiggyWhig’s mini cupcake at one of our shows this summer know how delectably delicious these little jewels are. FiggyWhig’s offers cupcakes in an amazing array of flavors–orange creamsicle, strawberry, double chocolate, key lime, lemon, coconut, chocolate raspberry truffle (to name a few), and the overwhelming favorite of Summer Shakespeare audiences, Reese’s chocolate peanut butter. Not only are they tasty, but these cupcakes are also beautiful. Each is decorated to perfection with sprinkles, candies, or some other yummy. Contact FiggyWhig’s directly to order some for your next party, for a special gift, or as a treat for yourself! And when you visit the Children’s Museum, stop in for a FiggyWhig’s cupcake in the downstairs cafe. Look for FiggyWhig’s at our September 10-12 run of Two Gentlemen of Verona!

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