by Lorie Lewis Ham
The College of the Sequoias Performing Arts Department in Visalia is starting a new season of theatre with their production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew opening this weekend. Recently KRL spoke with the show’s director, James McDonnell, about the show. James is a Professor of Theater and Cinema Arts at COS.
KRL: Why did you choose to do The Taming of the Shrew this year?
James: It’s a very simple reason, actually: It has been on my mind to direct for several years, and I had a lot of fun last year with Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. I was inspired by a very compelling production at the RSC in 2019 that reversed all of the genders, but in an Elizabethan setting, and I thought that setting it in the 1950s could tackle the narrative and themes in a similar fashion while providing new context.
KRL: For anyone not familiar this show can you tell us what the play is about?
James: It is a comedy of love and marriage and social status. The main story depicts Petruchia’s courtship of Katherino, the headstrong shrew. Petruchia is determined to win Katherino and tame him. The subplot features a competition of suitors for Katherino‘s younger brother, Bianco, who is the “ideal“ boy.
KRL: I take it that this is a modern interpretation, can you tell us more about that?
James: We are setting the show in a reimagined 1950s era world where society has evolved into a matriarchy. Most of the characters which Shakespeare wrote as male-identifying (Petruchio, Lucentio, Baptista) are now played as women while the handful of female-identifying characters (Katharina, Bianca) now played as men. Thus, we have a great opportunity to turn Shakespeare’s classic comedy about gender and power upside down as the domineering Petruchia (played by Brittney Martorana) seeks to marry – and tame – the shrewish young man, Katharino (played by Ryan Marroquin).
KRL: Any special challenges to directing this play?
James: It was a challenge to explore the world as if it has always been a matriarchy (instead of a patriarchy) and mine the humor in a “war of the sexes” from this vantage point, but I think it provided all of us – the production team, cast, and crew – with a really compelling perspective on an age-old issue.
KRL: What have you enjoyed the most about directing it?
James: Working with the cast has been absolutely wonderful. They are creative and generous collaborators.
KRL: When and where on campus will it be playing?
James: Performances will be:
Thursday, October 6, at 7pm
Friday, October 7, at 7pm
Saturday, October 8, at 7pm
Thursday, October 13, at 7pm – Student Discount Night: $5 for students of all ages!
Friday, October 14, at 7pm
Saturday, October 15, at 1pm AND 7pm
The show will be performed in the COS Theatre on the College of the Sequoias Visalia Campus, 915. S. Mooney Blvd.
KRL: How much are tickets and where do people purchase them?
James: Tickets are $14 for the General Public, $12 for Seniors, and $10 for Students of all ages (with valid school ID). Reserved seating can be purchased at cos.ticketleap.com or at the Box Office beginning 45-minutes prior to each performance.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
James: We are excited to be back inside the beautiful COS Theatre for the entire season and can’t wait to share all four of our productions with Central Valley audiences. The season is listed below:
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by James McDonnell
In a reimagined 1950’s, society is a matriarchy. Baptista Minola – one of the wealthiest women in Padua – wants to sell off her son, Katherino, to the highest bidder, sparking an explosive battle of the sexes.
Shakespeare’s fierce comedy of gender and materialism gets turned on its head in this fresh new adaptation!
October 6-15, 2022
Written by Robert Askins, Directed by Chris Mangels & Tamla Quipse
The patriarch of a family of gray squirrels has collected enough nuts to last ten winters. When a group of starving fox squirrels begs him to share, animosity erupts into an apocalyptic battle for domination that threatens to consume their entire world.
In this hilarious, boundary-pushing, dark comedy, no creature comes out unscathed.
November 10-19, 2022
SHREK: THE MUSICAL
Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book & Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, Directed by James McDonnell
“Once upon a time, there was a little ogre named Shrek….”And thus begins the tale of an unlikely hero who – alongside a wisecracking Donkey and a feisty princess – finds himself swept up in a life-changing journey. Throw in a short-tempered bad guy, a cookie with an attitude, and one enormous, love-struck dragon, and you’ve got the kind of adventure that calls for a real hero.
Let your freak flag fly with this spectacular musical comedy!
March 9-18, 2023
ARGONAUTIKA: The Voyage of Jason & the Argonauts
Written by Mary Zimmerman, Directed by Chris Mangels and The Experimental Theatre Ensemble
Set sail with Jason and the Argonauts on their quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Peril awaits them at every turn as they encounter sea-monsters, water nymphs, wicked giants, and savage kings, but no danger proves as great as the overwhelming love of a girl named Medea.
Don’t miss this epic adventure!
April 27-May 6, 2023
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. And don’t miss out on Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast where we feature mystery stories read by local actors!