Our production of The Taming of the Shrew is situated loosely in some kind of a saloon in some version of the Old West, circa 1880. Of course it is not exactly that, it is our own imagined world, but it is closer to that than anything else.
Any scant resemblance to the HBO series Deadwood is anything but accidental. It was while watching that remarkable show that it occurred to me to set our Shrew in a world of roughly the same hue and energy. It turns out, I soon discovered, that this is not a terribly original idea, as it has been done a number of times, in many variations and permutations. In fact, in New York right now another Shrew is also set in some version of the Old West.
Why is this? What makes the Old West a helpful or logical setting for this complex little comedy? After seeing this production, hopefully you’ll be able to answer that for all your friends, family, and neighbors as you email them and tell them to turn tail and haul on down to the Folger. But here, perhaps, is a bit of ammo for the conversation...
The mythological “Old West” was a place where power and money ruled. And law was still... flexible. There was a sense of possibility and limitless potential, hence, it attracted an interested kind of individual. We can imagine it as an exciting, dynamic, invigorating environment. Rules were continually being rewritten. That was certainly true of women’s roles as well (which is why we have made some gender-bending choices that I think will make the whole story even more complex). It is a place that seems to catch our collective imaginations. The Wild West of gunslingers, shootouts, stampedes, and cowboys is deep in our national psyche.
I find a lot of that wonderful, mythic, rough-and-tumble spirit in this play. Therefore connecting the two worlds seems like a helpful and logical choice. Also, it just seemed like a really, really fun and provocative place to set this charged, fascinating, and somewhat fraught story.
It’s been my privilege to direct here at the Folger every year for the past eleven years. I remain grateful and honored to be trusted with this wonderful space and with you—the Folger’s excellent, insightful, exacting audience. We have been fortunate to once again assemble some extraordinary artists to help me tell this story. This gang in particular is perhaps even more... effervescent than most. I hope you enjoy their performance at least half as much as I enjoyed them every day in rehearsal. The accumulated wisdom, experience, insight, skill, and just plain talent is an inspiration.
Enjoy the show.