By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The Mahoning Valley Players will again bring Shakespeare to the park, and, as always, they will do it their own way. The troupe has been staging a Shakespeare play at Morley Pavilion in Mill Creek Park’s Wick Recreation Area for several years. This year’s offering will be “The Taming of the Shrew,” Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.
Amy Anne Kibler is directing, and she has put some new spin on it.
First off, “Shrew” will be done in commedia dell’arte style, the 16th-century form of street theater that utilizes stock characters who adapt to any character.
Another change is a subtle change in delivery that ameliorates the sexism inherent in the play.
“My take on it is that you can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Kibler. “Everyone in the town feels that [Katherina] is a shrew. But we’ve set it up so that Katherina’s sister [Bianca] — who everyone thinks is great — isn’t so great. Kate becomes a very sympathetic character. She got a bad rap.
“Bianca is typically super sweet, but we’re making her not as pure and sweet and angelic as everyone thinks she is,” Kibler continued. “She does quite a bit to tease and provoke Kate, and does it when no one’s looking. It will strike a chord among women who know ‘mean girls,’ and it makes Bianca a more three-dimensional character.”
Kibler said the play has been trimmed down to a running time of no more than an hour and 45 minutes, which is necessary since the play is outside and light will fade if it goes on too long.
“We preserve the essence of the script and Shakespeare’s beautiful language, but trim some of the archaic references and repetition.”
No lines were altered to create the new dynamic between Katherina and Bianca, stressed Kibler. “It’s just a matter of how you play the lines and the blocking,” she said. The play will still be set in the Renaissance era.
Kibler also will give “Shrew” a fresh treatment by moving it off the stage. The actors will be on the grass in front of the stage, with the audience surrounding it on three sides. “It will be intimate because the audience will be closer,” said Kibler.
The cast will include Liz Conrad, Craig Conrad, Eric Kibler, Jeremiah Kibler, Elsie Kibler, Tommy O’Donnell, Kage Coven, Dave Wolford, Donnie Wolford, Tricia Terlesky, Terry Shears, Bill Finley, Dom Augustin, Claudia Gage and Gerri Jenkins.
The Mahoning Valley Players was founded by Elizabeth Conrad, Cleric Costes and Kim Akins after they appeared together in a production of “Macbeth” at the Youngstown Playhouse. The trio enjoyed the experience so much that they set about to ensure there be at least one performance of Shakespeare in the city each year.