The first time I read through TAME., I had to walk away from my computer.
TAME. had been described to me not as a reinterpretation but rather as a reimagining of The Taming of the Shrew—a play I have always been a little ambivalent about. I’ve seen a few good productions, a few bad productions, a few that made me grit my teeth and clench my jaw, and a few that made me somewhat understand and appreciate what others saw in this tempestuous relationship between a so-called shrew and the man who claims he was born to tame her. I at least had what I thought was a detached appreciation for the piece—since it belonged to the Bard, it at least earned my ambivalent respect.
Ambivalence did not come into play for me reading TAME. The emotion that kept overwhelming me was fury. Deep, pure, and unquestioning. I honestly had to ask myself for a moment if this was a play I could work on. Complete rage is not a comfortable place to be in when living in the world of a play—I was afraid of it. And that’s why I am so damn glad I did end up getting the opportunity to direct it for Avant Bard now.
It’s 2016 and as I write, a man who represents a national political party as their presidential candidate, a sputtering gaslight of a human being, spews lies and misinformation, and somehow objective truth is still up for debate. And woman after woman comes forward and says that this man abused her and hurt her, and somehow the validity of their arguments is still in question. And people hem and haw a lot about the other presidential candidate because she’s not charming enough, or not steely enough, or not open enough, or not closed enough, or not whatever the fuck, because literally I have heard every single accusation thrown her way and I am so tired I could scream. This is happening at the national level for the most powerful office in the land, and the female contestant for this position still has to endure this rot and triviality.
We’re getting a snapshot on a national stage of the reality that most women live with everyday. The unspoken extra precaution. The mental gymnastics. The tightrope of not wanting to assume the man walking too close behind you means you harm (because #notallmen), but holding your keys in your hand just in case (because #yesallwomen). The hesitation to yell at a man who touches you inappropriately because what if others around you blame you, or laugh at you, or ignore you? Or what if he just plain doesn’t stop? Or what if he kills you for not letting him have his way?
And what if then you’re told that, whatever he did, you were asking for it all along?
That’s why I wanted to direct Jonelle Walker’s TAME. Because this play is a fucking pent-up scream finally let loose. It is a vengeful, unapologetic tear into the patriarchy and misogyny that invisibly drapes itself over our world. It is a rage against the idea that a female protagonist must be perfect to be a hero. It is we—the cast, the creative team, and I—who have imagined and developed and breathed and loved this piece hollering at the top of our lungs against this world we live in, where consent is contended and truth up for debate.
TAME. gives us the kind of heroine that we need right now: Bristling, brilliant, biting, and brooding—unapologetically herself and equally as ready to rip everyone around her a new one if they get in her way. A heroine who sees the entire world set against her and still flicks her middle finger up and goes her own way, risking all she is and all she holds dear.
As Jonelle has so aptly put it:
You want a shrew? We’ll give you a fucking shrew.
TAME. plays November 3 through December 11, 2016, at Avant Bard performing at Gunston Arts Center Theatre Two – 2700 South Lang Street, in Arlington, VA. Tickets are available by calling (703) 418-4808, or online.
Angela Kay Pirko is resident director/co-producer of Nu Sass Productions, co-producer with Shakespeare in the Pub, and a member of the Directors Studio at STC. She has worked at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, Adventure Theatre, Theatre J, Young Playwrights’ Theater, Brave Spirits, Lean & Hungry, and Source Festival.
Capital Fringe 2014 Review: ‘TAME.’ by Andrew L. Baughman.