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Author: Jill Kimball

CSF’s 60th season opens with ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy gets a swingy 1940s-era New York refresh.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is set to kick off its landmark 60th season in style with a swing-era production of “The Taming of the Shrew”—the same play that opened CSF’s very first festival in 1958.

CSF reimagines Shakespeare’s zany comedy by setting it in New York City just after World War II. Kate, a plucky pilot who’s just returned from the war, meets her stubborn match, Petruchio, on the vibrant streets of Little Italy. As the two duke it out in a battle of wits and dance the night away, they discover, against all odds, a mutual respect that’s almost like being in love.

“Shrew” director Christopher DuVal, a longtime fight director and Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran, wanted to set the play in the 1940s to explore that era’s “radical break in gender roles.” During the war, women everywhere kept the economy running by stepping into men’s jobs … and when the war was over, many refused to return to their subservient lives.

“In our play, Kate was a Women Airforce Service Pilot within the war effort, and she has since come back home to find there are limited options,” DuVal says. “Her father expects her to settle down and get married, but Kate sees herself as a rightful and very deserving equal of men.”

DuVal emphasizes that CSF’s production isn’t about a man who tames a woman. It’s about two people who learn about themselves and about each other as they fall in love.

“Petruchio is as tamed by Kate as she is tamed by him,” DuVal says. “They find out that they complement each other deeper than they ever thought possible.”

Both of this production’s leads, Shelly Gaza and Scott Coopwood, have played Kate and Petruchio before in other parts of the country. Now that they’re a little bit older and a little bit wiser, they’re excited to bring more complexity and life experience to these characters.

In the 12 years since she last played Kate at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Gaza says, “my concept of being a good partner and spouse has completely evolved. I think relationships are about give and take, and that’s true for Kate and Petruchio, too: The journey is not about taming Kate, it’s about Kate and Petruchio both learning to become good people for each other.”

Coopwood likes Petruchio’s wit, charm and bravado, and he’s excited to see how those characteristics look on an older, wiser protagonist—one who’s been hardened by years of searching for a soulmate.

“Kate and Petruchio challenge each other, and that’s what they’ve been lacking in other relationships,” he says. “They have to get over the thought that, ‘Well, this has never worked before.’ But they’re absolutely meant for each other and they do legitimately fall in love.”

While he loves the comic relief, Coopwood says he’s itching to delve into the play’s elements of romance and self-discovery—something he didn’t get to do the first time he played Petruchio a decade ago.

“I come across as a pretty intimidating person, but I have a gooey chocolate center,” he says. “Coming at it 10 years later, I want more of the heart.”

 

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