Tonight found us exploring Act IV Scene V, in which Katharina and Petruchio come to an understanding on the way to Baptista’s house. We began to get the humor in the scene just from its first walk through, and we decided to hone in on more details of what’s going on, beginning with movement.
I asked Petruchio to try stopping when he verbally “puts his foot down” about Katharina needing to agree with whatever he says, no matter how ridiculous, and to make her come to him. This was beginning to work, although our Katharina has a tendency to move very quickly that we needed to find a way to alleviate – the scene was not doing what we wanted it to do yet. The lines here are:
Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
I say it is the moon.
I know it is the moon.
Nay, then you lie: it is the blessèd sun.
Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessèd sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina.
Since both of these women have been committed to the idea that Kate and Petruchio truly love each other and are not awful people, and since we all realized that this might be the most important scene in the play because it’s where they can establish this very firmly, I asked them to try this scene as if the lines were wedding vows – as if this were the real wedding, as opposed to the one in which Petruchio acted out.
This approach proved to be one that the entire ensemble loved. “I like it because Kate has a choice,” said one woman. “It’s the real-est acting there’s been in this group yet,” said another. What this comes down to is that in order to tell this story honestly in the way that they’ve interpreted it, Petruchio and Kate needed to make themselves very vulnerable here. Even with a stand-in Petruchio (the woman playing the role had to go to another group midway through ours), this is paying off.
The ensemble worked together beautifully to stage the rest of the scene, discussing ideas, objectives, obstacles, and the overall effect they want to get out of the interaction with Vincentio. When one woman had an idea for staging that seemed too difficult to some of us, the women in the scene tried it anyway to see if it would work. The majority thought it really didn’t after all, but the whole situation was handled with such respect that it didn’t become a conflict.
It was a really productive night, and we all left feeling good about the work that was done. Those sessions are the ones that help us get through the more challenging ones.
Although we were missing our Katharina and Hortensio, we decided to ride our momentum from the other night and plug in our Petruchio and Vincentio (who had had to leave early) to Act IV Scene iii.
Our first challenge was in repeating the blocking we had come up with the other night, but we found that when we focused on the characters’ objectives rather than the exact staging, it happened organically. That was a relief! We worked through the interaction with Vincentio and determined that it is a game that Kate and Petruchio are playing now that they have come to an understanding – their relationship has changed, and so has everything else for them.
After we ran through the scene with our new understanding of it, one woman had an epiphany: “I don’t think the taming of the shrew is a bad thing,” she said, “It’s about calming down and working as a team.” She explained that there is give and take in any relationship, and that is now what she sees in Kate and Petruchio rather than the breaking of a woman’s spirit. We are all inclined to agree with her.
We began reading Act V Scene I and looking to clarify anything that is confusing, but we decided not to put it on its feet because we were missing too many people who are in the scene.
We set a goal to read through the entire play in order as a group by the end of February and see where the holes are – which scenes haven’t been staged or have been recast since we staged them – and a nice byproduct of this will be that our new members will be nicely caught up. We did this last year and liked the way it worked, although we weren’t ready to do it until March or April last year. Even when we feel like we’re spinning our wheels, we have to remind ourselves that it’s part of the process, and we still have plenty of time left to accomplish our goals.