Proud Paduans

ChiRounding out our series of interviews with the cast of Taming of the Shrew, we have Jan Marsh, Vince Faso and Sarah Stewart, who essentially play the people of Padua, the city where Shrew takes place. Each of them plays an essential part, with Sarah in particular playing a key character who has less than a dozen lines in the play. But supporting roles are still critical roles in this play, and each of these folks brings more than their share to the table.

So who are you, in 100 words or less?

Jan: Good question. The answer changes daily.

Vince: I’m an Oakland resident and have a degree in Performing Arts & Social Justice from the University of San Francisco. I have performed with many companies around the Bay Area and enjoy the occasional stints as a director and playwright. During the day I teach middle school Drama at Redwood Day School in Oakland where we’re currently in rehearsals for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” My other love is improv and I’m a proud member of Chinese Ballroom Comedy Improv.

Sarah: I am a mom, an engineer, a musician, and now happily again – an actor! I strive to find balance in life and to enjoy the good things that come my way. I feel incredibly blessed to live in San Francisco, where just tonight I watched the sun set from Ocean Beach. I enjoy playing music for toddlers in my spare time at a weekly tot jam, doing yoga, and hanging out at the playground with my family.

How did you get involved with Theater Pub?

Jan: I had worked with Meg O’Connor at Playwrights Center of San Francisco. She was directing Theban Chronicles for Theater Pub and her choragos dropped out so I replaced her.

Vince: I also performed in the Theban Chronicles several years ago and have been a fan since. I’m glad to get a chance to perform in a full Theater Pub production.

Sarah: The director (Stuart Bousel) is one of my oldest friends. I have seen many of his shows & have always dreamed of performing in one. Stars aligned for me to be a part of this show, and I have Stuart to thank for making it happen.

What do you love about being in a Theater Pub show?

Jan: Working with Stuart Bousel.

Sarah: I love this cast and the director! Everyone is so talented, professional and fun! And I love how accessible Theater Pub is!

Sarah Stewart: Ray of Sunshine

Sarah Stewart: Ray of Sunshine

Vince: The talent is impressive and the atmosphere is exhilarating. The audience is so much a part of the show, and it reminds me of improv.

What do you see as the biggest challenge?

Vince: The audience is so much a part of the show, and it reminds me of improv.

Sarah: The short time frame. This play came together over a few weeks.

Jan: Synching the show/cast’s needs with the Pub’s needs.

Tell us about your character- who are they, what do you love about them, what do you hate?

Jan: Baptista is a mother who wants to provide for her daughters; one has many suitors and can choose the highest in a bidding war, the other is valued by her mother, but not the market. A man comes who understands Katherina, knows how to deal with her, marries her, and facilitates change for her. Baptista makes the best of all possible deals for Bianca, who then ruins it and the family by marrying her tutor. In the long run, Baptista gets what she wanted for both of her daughters, one of whom shows her true colors, the other of whom comes to herself. I like Baptista’s fierceness, and enjoy playing her dualities.

Jan Marsh: Fierce

Jan Marsh: Fierce

Vince: Hortensio is a guy who can get things done (or can put you in touch with someone who can). He’s traveled extensively and soaks up experiences like a sponge. I like Hortensio for his quick, fearless wit and how he moves seamlessly between every plot in Shrew.

Sarah: The Widow marries Hortensio after he loses Bianca. She is wealthy. I think she is a bit ahead of her time as a liberated woman (this is what I love about her). She gives her husband a hard time, but is also disturbed by Katherina’s scolding tongue. I hate (strong word) that there isn’t more time to get to know the widow, she is a brief part of the play.

Tell us about Padua, since all your characters live there. What’s it like? Good schools? Housing market?

Jan:Pretty churches, nice river, good economy, great university.

Sarah: I imagine Padua to be similar to Tucson, AZ. There is a rancher, there is a university, there is a lot of drinking and dating of the same people. Average people can afford to have decent places to live.

Vince: Padua is a small, well-to-do town. The kind of place that thinks very highly of itself and resembles larger cities on a smaller scale. Seems like a place where most folks know each other and there’s only one of each occupation.

Each of you plays key supporting characters- what’s the best thing about having a “supporting role”?

Sarah: Less lines to learn! And a great opportunity to learn from watching
the other actors.

Jan: Every cog is important in any play, but Shakespeare even more so than normal. I am small, but I must turn precisely in order for it to work.

Vince: It’s one of the toughest things to do in theatre but sometimes it’s fun to be on stage and not be the center of attention; simply being present in the moment.

Vince Faso: Motivating Like A Champ

Vince Faso: Motivating Like A Champ

One of your characters, the Widow, doesn’t have a name in the script. What do you think her name actually is?

Sarah: I’d like to name her “Gloria” (after Gloria Steinem).

Vince: Florence Isabella Domenico-Bernelli-Pontedra-Lombardi-Giovanni-Francesco-Farfalle.

Jan: Girrlfriend!

What’s your favorite line in Shrew?

Vince: “Better once than never, for never too late.”

Sarah: “He that is giddy thinks the world turns round.” –The Widow

Jan: I like that it starts out with “…good pastime toward….wonderful froward”, and ends with “…children are toward…women are froward”. Kind of a Shakespearean chiasmus.

What’s your favorite beer at Theater Pub?

Sarah: Anchor Steam.

Vince: Brother Thelonius Belgian Style Abbey Ale.

Jan: Well, I don’t drink, but have had their Australian blood orange soda.

Join us for the last two performances of Taming of the Shrew- tonight at 8 PM and Wednesday at 8 PM, only at the Cafe Royale.

Advertisements

Cowan Palace: Quick and Dirty Tips to Surviving The Taming of the Shrew

This week, Ashley Cowan offers a few thoughts and facts regarding The Taming of the Shrew to get you ready for March 18’s Opening Night at Cafe Royale. 

Now, I’m sure most of you out there are Shakespeare fans. Or at least, that’s what you tell your friends. But just in case he makes you a little nervous, here are a few basic points to help ease you into to The Taming of the Shrew

First, what the heck is a shrew?

Well, according to the dictionary a “shrew” is a mouselike mammal with beady eyes and a long pointed snout. Its second definition simply explains a shrew as “a bad-tempered or aggressively assertive woman”.  And while I do think Stuart should have considered casting an array of small creatures, in this case, the tamed shrew describes Katherina.

Katherina? What an exotic name! Where does this play take place?

In the Italian city of Padua. 

Ah, and when was it written?

There are a few opinions on the year but most seem to believe it was in 1592.

16th-century Italian comedy was a thing, right? Did that impact the play?

Well, reader, great observation.  There does seem to be some evidence within The Taming of the Shrew that reflects some of the style of Commedia dell’Arte. For example, the combination of some melodrama moments and slapstick humor executed by a colorful collection of characters. 

That sounds fun.

It is!

Has The Taming of the Shrew ever been made into a movie?

It has. An impressive fourteen different films have been created; including one with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It also helped to inspire the enchanting musical, Kiss Me Kate, and the ever popular teen classic flick, 10 Things I Hate About You

So how does this story start?

Once upon a time there were two sisters: Katherina and Bianca (spoiler alert: one of them is a shrew) who lived with their father, Baptista. Bianca was considered a hot piece and managed to attract herself three suitors but Dad refused to take any of them seriously until his other single daughter, who had a reputation for being harsh and unfriendly, found a beau of her own.  

Theater Pub has taken a slightly different route and has cast Baptista as a woman. And since mother often knows best, this should be a fun interpretation of controlling parenting presented with a feminine approach and two daughters working what their mama gave them. 

Does Katherina find someone?

Does she! After a few questionable OKCupid dates, Petruchio leaves Verona and comes into town in search of fame, fortune, and perhaps some female companionship.  And when he meets Kate, he’s not afraid of her or her reputation. 

So?

So? People love this stuff. It’s the whole “battle of the sexes” thing. We get to explore the relationship of two strong competitors who both embody elements of their sex and the fire to remain in control. 

Would you say it’s a romantic comedy?

I guess you could say that. But the play certainly opens the door to larger social issues regarding the institution of marriage and the exploration of the roles within them. 

Does the shrew ever get tamed? 

That’s something we can talk about over a beer.  Partially because it can be a fun discussion and partially because I’m thirsty. 

At the beginning the play, so much of what we, the audience, know about Kate is told to us by the other characters. They all seem to be on a mission to teach us about her incorrigible ways. But as the story progresses, we start to get an idea of what may be influencing her behavior and her response to her sister being favored by her father (or in this production, her mother). 

Now, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I’m a bit of a romantic. I’ve been through many heated discussions about this play and listened to the backlash of several spirited thinkers who find the piece to be sexist and degrading. And to them, I say – maybe grab a drink and relax for a moment. I personally believe it’s a story about people learning from each other, exploring their fears, and ultimately transforming by approaching life in a new way. The play can be farcical but it’s also richer and more developed than that too. 

Yeah, but what’s up with Kate’s speech at the end? 

It depends how you direct it and interpret it but I believe it’s a representation of Kate’s dynamic spirit evolving into a more mature state. She seems to be accepting that she’s in a partnership and perhaps with that, she understands that power can exist together. When one succeeds, the other benefits.

Okay. Why should I see Theater Pub take this play on?

Well, what else are you doing? 

Come see it. There’s nothing like watching Shakespeare’s words come to life surrounded by bar patrons and theater lovers alike. This production is sure to entertain and challenge us, make us reconsider the strengths and weaknesses of relationships, and delight us with a cast of talented Bay Area actors. Image

Plus, I’ll be there. And I’d love to see you.