Tag Archives: Taming Of The Shrew

RIP Marin Mazzie

Cancer knows no bounds. Race, class, income, education, etc mean nothing to this insidious disease.

Today, Broadway lost one of their brightest stars. Marin Mazzie, best known for her roles in Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate, passed away this morning from Ovarian cancer. She was 57.

I saw her in Kiss Me, Kate when I was in college. Her performance was absolutely mesmerizing. Especially the song “I Hate Men”. Despite the late 1940’s setting of Kiss Me, Kate and the unrelenting sexism in the show and it’s originator, William Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew, the audience is clued into the underlying feminism of the play. The song is feminist rage exploding on stage in a way that almost liberates the text from the rampant sexism that is unfortunately part and parcel of the narrative.

My thoughts and prayers are with her husband and her loved ones.

May her memory be a blessing.

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RIP Heath Ledger

Every generation has that performer. That performer burst onto the scene, spoke to their generation, burnt bright and unfortunately, left this world just as they are about to hit their stride. Heath Ledger was that performer.

He started acting at a young age and shot to fame in 1999 in 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern high school reboot of the Shakespeare play Taming Of The Shrew.

Ledger was not one to be boxed into a specific character type or narrative. His roles varied from a peasant pretending to be a knight in A Knights Tale (2001) to a gay cowboy in the closet and in love with his best friend in Brokeback Mountain (2005).


His final completed role was The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Unlike his predecessors who played the role, Ledger’s Joker was more scary than laughable. This Joker was unpredictable and kept both the audience and Batman on their toes throughout the film.

He sadly died of a drug overdose 9 years ago leaving behind brokenhearted family members, friends and fans. While his career and life were sadly cut short, his work will live on.

Z”l. RIP.

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William Shakespeare

400 years ago today, William Shakespeare breathed his last.

While he lived and died in Elizabeth England, his characters and narratives are universal.

Falling in love, growing old, falling out of love, conflicts with friends, family and neighbors, jealousy, hate, greed were all used within the various narratives of his plays. In addition to being a playwright, Master Shakespeare was poet.

His poetry is so brilliant that it does not have to be translated into modern English to be understood or appreciated.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

One of his brilliant strokes as a writer was to create characters that we all can relate to. We have all had to read at least one of his plays in an English class during our school days.

To show how universal his work is (and how easily it can be altered to a new interpretation), I present to you this clip from 10 Things I Hate About You.

A modern high version of Taming Of The Shrew, the Stratford Sisters, Kat and Bianca (Julia Stiles and Larissa Oleynik) are not allowed to date, until their father changes the rules. Bianca can go on a date when Kat does. The only problem is that Kat does not want to date and there is no boy at their high school who would dare approach her for a date.

Enter Patrick Verona (the late Heath Ledger). Initially bribed to take Kat out so Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), can take out Bianca, Patrick is the only one who would dare ask the fierce Kat for a date.

What this adaptation does brilliantly is keep the narrative and characters mostly intact while removing the almost virulent sexism and updating the plot to the late 1990’s.

Rest in peace, sir. Your physical remains are long since dust, but your name and you work lives on.

 

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Happy Birthday, Heath Ledger

If the mark of an unforgettable actor is that his or her fans shed a tear for them and remember the performances that moved them, then Heath Ledger is most certainly an unforgettable actor.

He died at the young age of 28, leaving a hole in our lives that will never truly be filled.

We will never know what his career could have been. But we can remember what it was and the impact it left on audiences. In honor of his birthday, which was yesterday, let us take a moment to remember his finest work.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Joker was the last role Ledger completed before his tragic death. While other actors tried to exude a charm under the face paint, Ledger’s psychotic Joker sent a chill down the backs of audiences. If and when there is another Batman movie and the Joker is the antagonist, this actor, whomever they are,  will have mighty big shoes to fill.

A Knights’s Tale (2001)

William Thatcher is a peasant who has been working for a recently deceased knight since his childhood. When his master dies, William decides to take fate into his own hands. The only problem is that there is no such thing as a self made man in those times. Whatever your place in life was at birth, it would remain fixed for the rest of your days. But William is not content to remain as he is, so he takes a chance and pretends to be a knight with aristocratic origins. That is only the beginning.

Last, but certainly not least, one of my perennial favorite Heath Ledger movies……

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Taming Of The Shrew set in a modern high school, Ledger played a high version of Petruchio opposite Julia’s Stiles’s Kat. This movie is electric. Their chemistry is obvious from the word go. Instead of using vague character and plot references, the screenwriters kept to the original narrative while making the movie feel fresh and new.

Heath Ledger was not the type of actor to rest on his laurels and play the same character in the same genre over and over again.

RIP, sir, your physical presence maybe gone, but your work will live on.

 

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Taming Of The Shrew

The Taming Of The Shrew is one of William Shakespeare’s earliest plays.

The play is about the tempestuous romance of Petruchio and Katharina.

Katharina is the eldest of two daughters. Her younger sister, Bianca is sweet, loving and deferential to their father. She has several men who are eager to marry her. The only problem is that until Katharina marries, Bianca must remain single.

Katharina is feisty, headstrong, loud and opinionated. No man in Padua would dare approach her on the subject of courtship and marriage. Enter Petruchio. Petruchio is an outsider who freely admits that “he wants to wive it wealthily in Padua”. In layman’s terms, he wants to marry for money. Petruchio is not a sweet and gentle man. He is course, rude and loudly opinionated. In other words, a perfect match for Katharina.

This play, depending on the interpretation, can be bawdy, sexy, funny and downright dirty. It is the story of two outsiders who discover that they are a perfect for another. This play can also be downright sexist and misogynistic, again depending on the interpretation.

In Shakespeare’s time, women had no rights. If they were lucky, they had fathers (and later on in life, husbands) who loved and respected them. Marriage then (as it is now still in some parts of the world) is a business transaction with women sold in the name of being married. Wealthy women especially, had no rights.

Over time, Taming Of The Shrew has had several adaptations. Cole Porter’s late 1940’s musical, Kiss Me Kate, is the story of a traveling theater troupe where the lead actors who were once married to each other are playing Katherine and Petruchio. In 1967, a traditional telling of the play was brought to the big screen with married actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton playing the leads. In 1999, the play was remade into 10 Things I Hate About You (which happens to be one of my favorite movies), in which Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger played high school versions of Katharina and Petruchio. This movie evolved 10 years later into an ABC family series with Lindsay Shaw and Ethan Peck taking off where Stiles and Ledger left off. Finally, in 2003, the play was adapted into the film Deliver Us From Eva with LL Cool J and Gabrielle Union (who has a role in 10 Things I Hate About You) as the dueling lovers.

I have mixed feelings about this play. While it is very funny, the play, in it’s original context does not sit well with me. It is soaked in the sexism that existed in Shakespeare’s time and to an extent, still exists in our time. While Katharina can be considered a feminist character who speaks for women whose voices are forced to be silent, her final speech could also be construed as a ideal of a (hopefully) bygone era where women were expected to be obedient and silent.

I’m going to add the trailers for some of the adaptations below. If you have an opinion of this play and it’s various adaptions, please leave them in the comments below.

 

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Two Teen Movies That Transcend Their Genre (And I Happen To Love)

The best teen movies are the ones that transcend their genre and generations. Regardless of our age and how old we were when these movies were released, we can still relate to them.

Two of my favorites are based in classic literature, Taming Of The Shrew by William Shakespeare and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.  They were also rebooted into Broadway musicals, Taming Of The Shrew remade into Kiss Me, Kate and Pygmalion remade into My Fair Lady.

But I happen to love their modern teenage remakes, 10 Things I hate About You and She’s All That.

10 Things I Hate About You is the story of the Stratford Sisters. Biana (Larissa Oleynik) is extremely eager to be popular and date Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan). But her hilarious and cringe inducing overprotective father (Larry Miller) will not allow Bianca to date until her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is dating. Kat has no interest in dating anyone. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is new to the school and falls in love with Bianca instantly.  He uses Joey, who pays Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), to date Kat, so he can go on a date with Bianca. The end result is very interesting and very entertaining.

I love this movie. The screenwriters kept the Beatrice and Benedict relationship between Kat and Patrick (as well as some of the Shakespearean language from the play)  while  dulling the sexist and misogynistic language of the original text. The late Health Ledger (pre Batman and pre Oscar for Brokeback Mountain) has a massive potential as an actor, that potential shines through in his later roles. Julia Stiles is another up and comer who proves that she has the talent to go very far.

She’s All That starts at the tail of senior year. Popular Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr) has just been dumped by his girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe).  Zach’s friend Dean (the late Paul Walker), makes a bet that Zach can turn any of his female classmates into prom queen.  Zach’s choice is Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook), the artsy outsider.

I love this movie. It’s one of those movies that I can find on cable and brought back to that time in my life. The coup that makes this movie stand out from other teen movies of this era is that Zach and Laney are each dealing with their own internal pressures. As their relationship grows, they find a way to deal with those pressures. This is another movie full of then up and coming performers (Usher, Gabrielle Union (who also had a part in 10 Things I Hate About You), Anna Paquin, Dule Hill) who have had steady careers since then.

Both of these movies have quotable lines and soundtracks that fit in so perfectly with era that they premiered.

I recommend them both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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