When I showed up for the first rehearsal of Taming of the Shrew I didn’t even know what part I was. It turns out that I was playing Curtis, one of the servants in Pertrucio’s house. But there were a lot more surprises along the way. Set in an all-girls Catholic high school, our director, Mary Beth Gorman decided to keep the show-within-a-show format that the play was originally in, but add her own spin and introduction. We spent a whole week on “table work” where we read though our hour-long cutting of the script and talked about different issues within the play.
We were each tasked, also, with coming up with a high school version of our character who would watch the show as an ”onstage audience”. One night during our table work week we all participated in an extended improvisation of a talent show being hosted at the high school. Everyone had worked very hard to create a thorough high school character with a complete backstory, and it made for a fantastic talent show. Several singers amongst the cast performed, two girls played a duet on the ukulele and spoons; there was a Nitchze reading and a hilarious magic show. The actress playing Kate performed a dance to “Get Low”, effectively infuriating the administrators.
For my character, I decided to do a tap dance. It was a skill I already had and it seemed fitting for Patsy Curtis, my high school character, as she exemplified the ultimate in uncool, and was a huge musical theater nerd. Copying a video I found on YouTube, I choreographed a tap dance to the opening of Forget About the Boy from Thoroughly Modern Millie. I had planned for the routine to end abruptly with a staged fall. It would show what a klutz Patsy was and get a good laugh. I spent an hour or so practicing the routine before rehearsal, and made sure to run though it on the stage before our improv began. Everything went smoothly. When my name was called, I got up to perform. It was great. There I was, finally back in my tap shoes, feeling fantastic. My big moment was approaching. I could almost imagine everyone’s laughter. Ok, here it goes, forget about the booooy… Slip. Smack. My staged fall spiraled a little out of control and I ended up hitting my head against the concrete floor. Instead of laughing, everyone gasped in shock, and was asking if I was ok. I didn’t know how to explain what had happened without breaking the impov, so I just went and sat down. There was only one act after me, and then we broke to discuss how we felt the improv had gone. At that point I had to repeatedly reassure everyone that I had meant to fall, just not quite that much. Someone gave me an ibuprofen and I was fine, but it was quite the lesson in humility. Doing something just to show off isn’t going to turn out well.
Everyone is the cast and crew was so talented and it was an honor to get to work with these fabulous ladies. The show ran this weekend, and we had a great run. Our goal was to tell a story about Kate and Petruchio, but more so to tell the story of a bunch of girls discovering the joy of theater. Hopefully that joy reached our audience as well.