In anticipation of our upcoming production of Taming of the Shrew, we caught up with local actor Paul Jennings, who will be playing Petruchio. Last seen at the Pub playing Falstaff in The Boar’s Head, Paul took a moment to talk about what it takes to play one of literature’s most infamous good/bad husbands.
So, who are you in a hundred words or less!
I am currently a proud Oakland resident, though I was born, and mostly raised in San Francisco. I am also a sometime producer, and frequent actor with a serious Shakespeare habit, having performed in 47 productions of 26 of the plays.
And how did you get involved with Theater Pub?
I first got involved with Theatre Pub when Jessica Richards asked me to audition for Boar’s Head in early 2011. I was cast (as Falstaff) and completely fell in love with the whole thing while doing the show.
What’s got you excited about working here? What’s got you worried?
I love the immediacy of the performance, and the interaction with the audience and the environment – there’s nowhere to hide, and it makes connecting that much easier. I don’t actually have any worries, simply because, by the nature of the project, the things that could be a concern – all those unknown, uncontrollable variables – are part of the experience.
Have you been in this play before? What’s your history with this show?
This is only my second production of Shrew – I played Grumio ages ago…I was about to comment on the, “only second” because it seems to be such a popular show – but then I realized that it actually *isn’t* performed all that often, especially in the Bay Area. I think this is mainly because it’s a hard show to do without the resulting “misogynist/feminist “dialogue becoming the focal point.
Tell us about your character- what do you love about them, what do you hate about them- what do you see as the biggest challenge?
The thing I hate about Petruchio is less actually about the character, but that he’s typically played along the lines of the hyper-masculine, “I’ll stop drinking just long enough to abuse this woman” performance that Richard Burton gave in the film version, which leads to the (mistaken, I believe) impression that the play is misogynist but I find his overriding trait to be “a complete and total unwillingness to be other than he is” – which is a character trait he shares with Kate, and I think that *this* is a huge part of their mutual attraction.
When you go about creating a role, what’s your process, in a nutshell? How do find a way into a character, particularly one written so long ago?
Leaving my internal process for inhabiting a role aside, for me, the most important thing about finding a character, especially, in Shakespeare, is using the text to inform my choices. I find that pretty much everything the playwright needs us to know is spelled out for us right there, we just have to learn to look for the clues. I find that choices in the use of words make a world of difference – Do they suddenly shift from the formal ‘you’ to the intimate ‘thou’? Are they echoing their scene partner? Are they shifting from Verse to prose?
What do you think this play has for a modern audience?
I think Shrew, tricky piece that it is, is still tremendously funny – it was, meant to be a comedy, after all – there’s a lot of really witty dialogue, as well as a lot of dialogue that *was* witty – to the cognoscenti of 425 years ago. In addition, I think there’s a lot of truth on a deeper level about human nature– Petruchio basically spells it out:
“…all the world,
That talk’d of her, have talk’d amiss of her:
If she be curst, it is for policy…”
She’s not shrewish by nature, but as a reaction to the unreasonable demands of her family and society, that insist she be who *they* think she should be.
A lot of famous lines in Shrew- what’s your favorite one?
As someone with an almost obsessive love for the period, and the language, the philosophy and classical references found within, I’m afraid to report that my favorite line is a smutty double-entendre that brings out my inner 6th grader:
Lucentio: Spit in the hole, man, and tune again.
A large selection of beers at our bar- what’s your favorite beer?
Don’t miss Paul, and the rest of this fantastic cast, in Taming of the Shrew, which plays four nights only- March 18, 19, 25 and 27, at 8 PM at the Cafe Royale. No reservations necessary as admission is free (with a suggested five dollar donation at the door), but get there early as we tend to fill up!