For the first time in BYU–Hawaii’s history, the theatre department performed at the Hale Pavilion and attendees of the production said the concept was innovative. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, actors and crew members presented William Shakespeare's, "The Taming of the Shrew," with a modern-Hawaiian twist, for those who wanted to experience theatre in the open-air.
The open-air concept, according to Addison Allred, a freshman from Virginia majoring in psychology, enhanced how she connected to the play. “Being under the pavilion resembles Shakespeare's time with the Globe Theatre where Shakespeare's plays were performed. It was more personal because it was in a circle shape. You almost felt you were in the play.”
Kristl Densley, the director of "The Taming of the Shrew," said the inspiration for setting the play outside under the pavilion was to resemble a modern take on Shakespeare. “I think Shakespeare is the most fun outside, and I knew because of the weather, I couldn’t do the production all the way outside, so we chose the pavilion. It is a beautiful space and is intimate, even though it was outside.”
Densley went on to say the location for the play was only difficult because it had never been done before at BYUH. “We all had to work together to create something new, so that in itself was challenging. Beyond the newness, setting the play outside is not any more challenging than being inside.”
Beyond the stresses of a new theatre space, Densley said the dialogue in "The Taming of the Shrew" concerned her.
“There are some themes on the surface that could be difficult, and some may think a man is taming a woman,” explained Densley. “They need to take a step back and look at the whole picture and think why taming a woman bothers them.”
Densley noted, after conducting research, she found “taming” in Shakespeare’s times indicated marriage. Because of this new definition, she said she believes the play can offer a beautiful image of marriage. It just depends on how someone interprets Shakespeare.
“In every play I’ve done, the audience has very a specific job," Densley explained. "[The audience] needs to watch the play and as they are driving home or walking to their hale, they need to think about how their own morality was affected by what they saw.”
Dr. Patricia Patrick, an associate professor at BYUH who teaches a course focused on Shakespeare's literature, agreed with Densley and said the show questions who is being tamed. She explained the characters think they are taming an outspoken girl named Katherine, but Katherine’s suitor, Petruchio, could be thw one who is being tamed.
“The play actually messes with some of your expectations of who is the shrew and how you tame a shrew,” said Patrick. "The basis for making women submissive is arbitrary. It is a game society plays.”
Joana Chibota, a freshman from Zimbabwe majoring in biomedical science, played the character Katherine. Chibota expressed playing a very outspoken character was hard, especially because they only rehearsed for four weeks before the production.
“My character is very physical and violent. She just hates. I am the complete opposite. I find it difficult to hit people and to scream at people, so getting into character was very difficult.”
Although it was difficult, Chibota described how she found a way to channel Katherine. “Once I let go of what Joana doesn’t like and focused on what Katherine likes, I was more comfortable. I had to forget I was Joana and become Katherine.”
Chibota understands how the play can seem controversial, but she said after being apart of the story, she found a deeper meaning. “To a lot of people, the play may seem sexist. I think the play emphasizes that women are equal to men. You can see that in the play. There are certain parts when the characters are equal, and no one is greater than each other.”
Playing Katherine is more than a role, Chibota said. Although Shakespeare’s language is hard to understand, it does not mean someone cannot relate to his words.
“The language may be hard to understand, but you don’t need to understand the language to understand the play,” Chibota explained. “There is a beautiful meaning behind the play. Sometimes I cry because of how the play is written. You don’t have to understand Shakespeare to understand the story. You just have to watch it and see with your eyes.”
Melissa Collins, a freshman from Italy majoring in marine biology, attended "The Taming of the Shrew" and agreed with Chibota's claim that you do not have to understand the dialogue to know what is happening in the story.
“The language of Shakespeare is sometimes difficult, but the way they acted and used body language made it easy to understand.”
Collins said she enjoyed how the play had a Hawaiian twist. The characters were dressed in aloha attire, and the setting was in Hawaii which made it a unique, modern Shakespeare experience.