Written by Ender Waters
Photo courtesy of Gwangju Performance Project
It was January of this year, and I was sitting on a beach in Thailand when my phone buzzed. My good friend and frequent collaborator, Cat Neil, former president of the Gwangju Performance Project (GPP), had messaged me.
“We talked it over, and they want you to do Shakespeare in the fall instead of the spring,” the message read.
I paused for a moment and considered. My contract was due to finish in August, and I hadn’t fully decided whether I wanted to renew or not. A lot could happen between January and November.
A few months earlier, neck-deep in rehearsals for the GPP’s annual fundraiser, The Cabaret, I had been talking with Cat about the shows the English language theater group were planning to do in 2017.
“I’d love for us to do Shakespeare in the Park,” she had said.
The idea appealed to me. “I’d love to direct Shakespeare in the Park,” I replied.
“What play would you want to do?”
I paused for a moment and considered before answering with a grin. “The Taming of the Shrew…with inverted genders.”
Arguably Shakespeare’s most well-known romantic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew has been consistently and frequently updated and retold, perhaps most familiarly in the 1990s teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, starring Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon Levitt. But the original play, despite being uproariously hilarious, trumpets a view of romantic relationships and appropriate courting that is off-putting and uncomfortable for most modern audiences.
I was pretty sure that a simple inversion of the genders would fix most of the problems and also add many more opportunities for comedy. So, once I had lit on the idea, I knew that this was one hundred percent what I wanted to do.
Back on that beach in Thailand, I made my decision. “I guess I’m renewing my contract,” I said aloud to myself. I then downloaded a copy of the play and got to work.
GPP members quickly became excited about the project. As is the case in many theater groups, there are often more women than men involved in our GPP performances, and with the gender inversion, there were a lot of juicy roles up for grabs.
Although I have a fair amount of experience directing short films, this would be my first time directing a full-length play, and I wanted a solid crew around me. Monique Onyema, co-president of the GPP, agreed to produce, while Robyn Morgan, the other co-president of the GPP, would serve as my assistant director. Long-time Gwangju resident Sarah Hale would be the stage manager.
With recent GPP productions Counterparts and No Man’s Land having dealt with rather intense subjects such as AIDS, racism, sexual abuse, and the pitfalls of capitalism, we decided to keep the tone of Taming a little bit naughty, bawdy, and above all, entertaining. Our iteration of the play is not set in any specific time period, so you’ll see cell phones and radios next to swords and 17th century frills.
We had a whole lot of wonderful auditions, ranging from Gwangju and GPP favorites like Jack George (Bianco) and Rachel St. John (Petruchia) to talented newbies like Kaitlyn Wachter. We even have three (very talented) actors coming down from Iksan every weekend.
Overall, we really hope all those who attend the play have an absolute ball and laugh till they’re falling out of their seats.
The Taming of the Shrew opens November 11th at Yunbaram Theater. For more details, see www.gwangjutheatre.com or their Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gwangju.perpro/.
Though Ender Waters grew up in Melbourne, Australia he doesn’t know (and doesn’t care) where “home” is any more. He went to film school in Los Angeles and, after graduating and deciding he didn’t like working a corporate job, promptly moved to Gwangju, where he has lived for two years. He enjoys watching movies, reading books, occasional photography, and traveling to as many places as he can.