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Getting To Know Baptista

David suggested during our first rehearsal the other night that if we were motivated to write anything about our experiences putting Shrew on stage that we could send it to him to be posted on the Jobsite blog. I’m one of those annoying people who tend to spew tons of information about their lives online, so I figured I’d take advantage of his offer and jot down some of my thoughts as we get started on this process.

Without delving too deeply into my own personal closet of psychological issues, I often find myself feeling slightly out-of-place among the talented people I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with in my years as part of the Jobsite ensemble. Part of this is due to the fact that I haven’t had much in the way of formal theater training outside of high school. I took some classes at the Polk Community College, but that was the extent of it. This tends to make me sometimes feel like I’m the rube that just happens to keep getting work professionally. You’d think that after 10 years as a member of the theater community here in Tampa I’d have gotten over that. You’d be wrong.

Welcome to the funky place that is my brain.

Our first rehearsal for this show was a prime example of that. Several of my fellow cast members mentioned during a round table discussion that this was their first professional Shakespearean production. I pointed out that this was my first Shakespearean production EVER.

An exciting and nerve-wracking situation to be in, to say the least.

I wasn’t originally slated to play Baptista. David initially offered me the role of Hortensio, but due to some unfortunate casting difficulties he asked me if I would be willing to switch. I wasn’t particularly married to playing Hortensio so I didn’t have a problem in swapping to make things easier for the company. I must admit that there is a small part of me that hopes Mark Leib repeats the criticism he made of my casting in Maxwell and points out that there’s no way I could be Katrina’s father, but beyond my angst over not wanting to look “old” I’m fine with the change.

I don’t want Baptista to just be a horrible father. I think that’s an “easy” way to play the character. Baptista could be played as yet another chauvinistic man in Katharina’s life. A thoughtless father who doesn’t give a damn about his older daughter and only wants to marry her off so that he no longer has to worry about her. Someone who believes his daughter is as horrible as everyone else does and is happy to see her broken at the end of the show. As someone who IS a Father this is an unappealing choice that I think would ultimately play stereotypical and boring.

In my mind, Baptista treated Katharina like the son he never had. I believe that the source of much of her rebellion is rooted in the fact that her Father didn’t put the restrictions of “proper” and “lady-like” behavior on her until it was far too late. I think he feels a great deal of guilt over that fact – That he failed Katharina and put her at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a husband. I think this is one of the reasons why he tolerates her actions. Secretly, however, I believe that Baptista is proud of the way that she is. I think this is particularly evident during the dinner scene at the end of the play, when he is convinced that Petruchio will not win the bet. At the current time, I see that last scene as something sad for Baptista. Like Petruchio, I think the Baptista recognizes what a huge loss it is to see Kate changed so drastically.

Kate gets some of her fire from her Father. Even though you don’t see it much in the context of the play, there are moments when it has the potential to show through. There is one moment in particular where she is pushing him (by continuing to abuse Bianca after he has attempted to break up the fight) and he turns on her. There are some interesting things that can be explored in that moment, depending on what Katrina has in her head at the time. It could be a place where she shows remorse over making her father sad. Conversely, I could play it as a moment of genuine anger and the audience can see where she inherited some of her fire from.

Something else I’ve noticed – Kate has a lot in common with the Disney Princesses we’ve been raised with. What is it about story tellers who seem to operate under the belief that women who aren’t raised with a Mother are the only ones who have the ability to be rebellious and/or independent? Is there something about having a Mom that stamps out any fire in young women?? I’m assuming that Kate’s Mom is not around, anyway, as she isn’t mentioned at all in the show.

There are two reasons why Baptista treats Bianca differently. The first, and most obvious, is that she is the youngest. Stereotypes tend to be based in some sort of reality, and the fact is that in most households I am aware of the youngest children get the most attention (I’m especially aware of this from BEING that spoiled younger child). Bianca also reminds Baptista of his (deceased? missing? traveling the universe in a TARDIS?) wife, and while I by no means think there is any kind of incestuous love there (there’s room enough for that in other Shakespearean plays) I do believe there is a level of affection toward Bianca that would not be there if his wife was around.

That’s pretty much the sum of my thoughts at the moment. I’m getting together with David to discuss things further tomorrow night, so perhaps I’ll have more to share after that. We’ve only had a few rehearsals so far, but I’m really excited to put this all together and see where I eventually end up with the character.

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