(WASHINGTON, DC) Folger Theatre concludes its 2011/12 three-play season with William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew. Helen Hayes Award-winning director Aaron Posner leads real life husband and wife Cody Nickell and Kate Eastwood Norris as Petruchio and Katherine in a quintessential battle of the sexes. Set in the Wild West circa 1880, Posner’s production is enlivened by original music composed and performed by acclaimed singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt.
The Taming of the Shrew pits the spirited Katherine against the fortune-seeking Petruchio in a witty sparring match. Petruchio has agreed to woo and marry Katherine as a favor to his old friend Hortensio, who is in love with Bianca, Katherine's younger and more popular sister. The younger sister can only be married after the older one, but Katherine has a notorious temper and thus far no man will have her... until Petruchio comes along to “tame” her.
The Taming of the Shrew is on stage May 1 – June 10, 2012 at Folger Theatre. Tickets are $39-$65—with lower-priced previews and discounts for groups of 10 or more—and may be purchased at the Folger Theatre box office, 202.544.7077, or online at www.folger.edu/theatre.
Posner’s production is inspired in part by the HBO television series Deadwood. “Last year, while I was thinking about this play, I also happened to be watching the DVDs of the remarkable series Deadwood, which is set in an ungoverned stretch of American frontier in the late 1800s,” said Posner. “Both the play and the series swirl around issues of gender, identity, money, and power, so it occurred to me to set our Shrew in a world of roughly the same hue and energy as Deadwood. I find a lot of Deadwood’s mythic, rough-and-tumble spirit in this play. Therefore connecting the two worlds seemed like a logical choice. Also, it just seemed like a really, really fun and provocative place to set this charged, fascinating, and somewhat fraught story.”
Another unique feature of this production is the addition of live music composed and performed in the role of “The Blind Balladeer” by singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt, perhaps best known for penning Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” campaign. Eberhardt’s songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as Richie Havens, Lucy Kaplansky, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Erasure, and he has released numerous albums since his recording career began in 1990. Shrew Songs, a limited edition CD containing 11 songs from and inspired by this production will be available for sale in the Folger Gift Shop.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Cliff Eberhardt on this production,” said Posner. “I have been a fan of his music for more than 20 years, and I could not be more excited to finally have found the perfect project with which to bring his talents into the theatre. Cliff's music is smart and sad, insightful and true, and it contains a wisdom rung from experience that somehow feels very right for the complex world of The Taming of the Shrew.”
ABOUR THE DIRECTOR:
Nationally recognized director Aaron Posner has previously directed 11 plays for Folger Theatre, including last season’s Cyrano, which received seven Helen Hayes Award nominations, including Outstanding Director for a Resident Play. Additionally, he directed the world premiere of Orestes, A Tragic Romp and a widely celebrated staging of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. Folger Theatre’s critically acclaimed 2008 production of Macbeth, which Posner co-directed with magician Teller, was listed by The Wall Street Journal “among the best Shakespeare productions in America.” He also directed the Folger’s Helen Hayes Award-winning Measure for Measure, which The Washington Post named one of the top ten DC theatre productions of the past decade, as well as The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (2005 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director), Melissa Arctic, Twelfth Night, Othello, and As You Like It.
From 1988 to 2006, Posner served as the Co-Founder, Artistic Director, and Resident Director of Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia, where he mounted more than 35 productions. From 2006-2010, he served as the artistic director of Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, New Jersey, with whom Folger Theatre co-produced Macbeth and Orestes, A Tragic Romp. Under Posner’s leadership, TRTC received “Theatre of the Year” awards from the New Jersey Theatre Alliance in 2006 and from The Star Ledger in both 2006 and 2008.
An Eisenhower Fellow, Posner has adapted and authored many plays, including My Name Is Asher Lev, The Chosen (which was recently seen at Arena Stage in a co-production with Theater J), Sometimes a Great Notion, and Mark Twain's A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage. In the coming year, he will direct Stupid F**king Bird, his loose adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
ABOUT THE CAST:
Kate Eastwood Norris appears as Katherine, the sharp-tongued “shrew” of the play. This is her thirteenth production with Folger Theatre, where in recent years she has been seen in her one-woman show Hamlet: Now I Am Alone and as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. She is the recipient of Helen Hayes Awards for her performance in Folger Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and for her work in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s She Stoops To Comedy. Norris also received two Helen Hayes nominations for her work in Intimate Exchanges at Source Theatre and Strange Interlude with Washington Shakespeare Company. She received the 2009 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role in Rock ‘n’ Roll at The Wilma Theater.
Cody Nickell plays Petruchio opposite his real-life wife playing Katherine. He previously appeared at Folger Theatre in The School for Scandal, Macbeth, and Arcadia, for which he received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his leading role. Nickell also received a Helen Hayes nomination for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Clybourne Park. He is the recipient of the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his work on Stamford Theatre Works’ Visiting Mr. Green.
Singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt performs his original songs in the role of The Blind Balladeer. He has made a number of recordings, including The High Above and The Down Below, named the #5 album of 2007 by USA Today, and All Wood and Doors, an acoustic tribute to The Doors with James Lee Stanley. Eberhardt’s songs have been recorded by Richie Havens, Lucy Kaplansky, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Erasure, and others. He has performed on albums by folk singers Dar Williams, John Gorka, Christine Lavin, Vance Gilbert, and Richie Havens, and he toured with Richie Havens and Melanie, among others. He advertising jingles include Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” campaign and jingles for Coke and Miller Beer. Learn more at www.cliffeberhardt.net.
Sarah Mollo-Christensen makes her Folger Theatre debut as Bianca, Katherine’s younger and fairer sister. Locally, she appeared in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s As You Like It, Henry V, and Richard II. Off-Broadway she has played in venues including Gorilla Repertory Theater Company, Twenty Feet Productions, Columbia Stages, and Atlantic Stage 2.
Sarah Marshall plays Baptista, mother of Katherine and Bianca. She previously appeared at Folger Theatre in As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Marshall is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, where she appeared in In The Next Room (or the vibrator play), Dead Man’s Cell Phone, The Clean House, and numerous other productions. She is the recipient of 17 Helen Hayes Award nominations and has been seen at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, The Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, Theater J, Signature Theatre, and The Kennedy Center.
Thomas Keegan plays Lucentio, a young student who poses as a tutor for Bianca and falls in love with her. He previously appeared as Cassio in Folger Theatre’s season-opening production of Othello. A graduate of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University, he has performed locally with The Kennedy Center and Constellation Theatre Company as well as numerous productions at American Shakespeare Center and the Texas Shakespeare Festival.
Holly Twyford plays Tranio, Lucentio’s servant. Twyford has been seen in ten Folger Theatre productions, winning the Helen Hayes Award for her performances in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet. Additionally, she garnered two Helen Hayes Awards for The Studio Theatre’s The Shape of Things and Signature Theatre’s Little Dog Laughed. A 14-time Helen Hayes Award nominee, Twyford has also performed at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Round House Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, among others.
Craig Wallace plays Gremio, one of Bianca’s many suitors. He has appeared at Folger Theatre in Much Ado About Nothing, Othello (2002), As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, and Measure for Measure. He received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his role in Angels in America Part 2 at Signature Theatre. Wallace has also worked with Shakespeare Theatre Company, Round House Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Theater J, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, among others.
As Hortensio, Marcus Kyd makes his fourth appearance at Folger Theatre following his roles in The Gaming Table, 1 Henry IV, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kyd is a Taffety Punk, the recipient of the 2008 Helen Hayes John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company. In addition to performing in regional Shakespeare Festivals, he has been seen at Arena Stage, Round House Theatre, Theater J, and The Kennedy Center, among others.
Danny Scheie plays Grumio, Petruchio’s loyal and comical servant. Scheie made his DC area debut earlier this season in You, Nero at Arena Stage. He has appeared in numerous productions with Shakespeare Theater and Shakespeare Santa Cruz and has also performed at The Old Globe, Berkeley Rep, Two River Theater Company, and Yale Rep, among others.
James Gardiner makes his Folger Theatre debut as Biondello, who serves Lucentio alongside Tranio. He has appeared in numerous productions at Signature Theatre Company and has also been seen at Ford's Theatre, The Studio Theatre, and The Kennedy Center, among others.
The cast is rounded out by Katy Carkuff, Edward Christian, Rex Daugherty, and Dave Gamble playing multiple roles.
ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAM:
Four-time Helen Hayes Award winner Tony Cisek returns to the Folger to design the Wild West saloon set for The Taming of the Shrew. He also designed the set for this season’s earlier production of Othello and more than a dozen other Folger Theatre productions. His credits also include designs for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, among others.
Helen Hayes Award winner Helen Q Huang designed the costumes for The Taming of the Shrew. Her work was last seen at Folger Theatre in the 2009 production of Much Ado About Nothing. Her work has also been seen at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, The Studio Theatre, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Round House Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Disney Entertainment, among others. She is a professor in the MFA Costume Design Program at the School of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at University of Maryland, College Park.
Lighting designer Jennifer Schriever joins the creative team with an impressive array of production experience. She has worked on numerous pieces both on- and off-Broadway in addition to several shows in the DC area, including A Streetcar Named Desire and The Winter's Tale. Her work has also been seen in such international venues as London’s Coliseum ENO, where she worked on The Pearl Fishers and Ghetto Klown, as well as the Russian Mariinsky for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The live music performed by Cliff Eberhardt is complemented by the sound design of Christopher Baine. His work has been heard in The Heir Apparent at Shakespeare Theatre Company, A Bright New Boise and Gruesome Playground Injuries at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and in productions at The Kennedy Center, Theater J, Synetic Theater, Forum Theatre, Everyman Theatre, and Olney Theater Center, among others. Michele Osherow is the resident dramaturg, and Tim Burt is the production stage manager. Janet Alexander Griffin is Folger Theatre’s Artistic Producer and Director of Public Programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library.