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The Folger Spotlight

More on Deadwood

Danny Scheie

Danny Scheie here, Grumio in Folger Theatre’s upcoming production of The Taming of the Shrew. As I write this, I am backstage at the Folger during our first dress rehearsal. It is exquisite to see the costumes on the actors on the set under lights moving to the lush folk stylings of Cliff Eberhardt, all of which have been inspired via Aaron Posner, our director, by the sensibilities and aesthetics of the television series Deadwood. Since we started rehearsals I have become deeply addicted to this monumental work. These long-form television series (like Deadwood and Mad Men) have rendered the feature film to the status of, well, a blog post. They have essentially revived the Victorian novel, and it is mind-blowing to contemplate that while George Eliot and Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens were writing Middlemarch and the Chronicles of Barsetshire and Our Mutual Friend in England and Herman Melville was penning Moby Dick on the American east coast, the original wild west was really happening, the petrie dish for Stagecoach and High Noon and The Harvey Girls and Gunsmoke and Deadwood and our production of The Taming of the Shrew.

From the first day of rehearsal I was impressed with the intelligence and power of this translation of genre and masterpiece onto masterpiece-ex-genre. Through watching Deadwood, my admiration of the series expanded. The guns and lawlessness and murder and fear and absolute social Darwinism of Deadwood offer lessons to anyone considering the current state of national legislation in our country. One side wants to go back to the good old days of Deadwood, and the other side would prefer to have a sheriff and a school, as constricting as that may be. I wonder if The Taming of the Shrew played this way in the 1590s, in a world where it took acts of vigilantism to keep men from beating their wives to death. Domestic violence laws, after all, both regulate and curtail freedom, including the religious, at least for one side, that is.