`The Shrew' Part 2: Kennedy Center presents the sequel

Original play, lesser-known `Tamer Tamed' put on by RSC

Stage: theater, music, dance

December 11, 2003|By Donna M. Owens | Donna M. Owens,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In an era in which romantic relationships often play out on reality shows, William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew remains a classic tale.

Yet few people outside theatrical or literary circles are aware of its sequel, The Tamer Tamed, penned not by the great Bard himself, but a younger contemporary, John Fletcher.

Rarely have audiences had the opportunity to see both plays performed by the same company, and in their entirety. In fact, the last known performance was in the 1600s.

That will soon change when The Royal Shakespeare Company mounts a three-week run of The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed at the Kennedy Center in Washington beginning this week.

It will mark the London-based company's second engagement this season at the Kennedy Center, continuing a five-year performing partnership that began last year.

"A Shakespeare company often puts The Taming of the Shrew into their repertory, but not the lesser-known play," said Kennedy Center spokesman Paul Bilyeu. "Many of the actors will retain their roles in each play.

The Taming of the Shrew, first produced in the 1590s, tells the tale of Baptista, a wealthy Padua merchant with two daughters: gentle Bianca, and Katherina, known for her surly ways.

When Baptista declares no man will marry Bianca until her sister first weds, potential suitors concoct various schemes. Lured by a large dowry, Petruchio woos Katherina, only to discover he actually likes her. A marriage is arranged, and thus begins trickery designed to "tame" the famous shrew.

The Tamer Tamed, also known as The Woman's Prize, dates to 1611.

In the play, Petruchio now has a second wife, Maria. The tables are turned when she locks her husband out on their wedding night, then further humiliates and "tames" him.

It's believed Fletcher wrote the play as a tactic to attract Shakespeare's attention, and apparently it worked. They went on to collaborate on three plays - Henry VIII, Cardenio and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

Fletcher later took over as principal dramatist in Shakespeare's famed King's Company.

Historians believe there is no record of the pairing of the two full plays since they were performed in a single day at court, by Shakespeare's old company, the King's Men, in November 1633.

Thus, this might not happen again for, say, another 370 years.

"The Royal Shakespeare Company is widely counted as the greatest interpreter of William Shakespeare in the world," Bilyeu said. "This is a rare opportunity to see the best, do the best."

"The Taming of the Shrew" plays Saturday through Jan. 4, and "The Tamer Tamed" plays Wednesday through Dec. 30 at the Kennedy Center, off Virginia and New Hampshire avenues Northwest, Washington. Times vary. Tickets are $25-$75. Call 202-467-4600 or 800-444-1324. As part of the Kennedy Center's education program, Performance Plus, there will be a "Lunchtime Look-in" discussion on Dec. 19, featuring actors, playwrights, directors and designers for one-on-one discussions and a question/answer session. Guests are encouraged to bring a lunch. Call the Kennedy Center for details.

For more theater, classical music and dance events, see Page 42.

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