A short shot at Shakespeare

When Rachel Rockwell sat down to adapt William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” she asked, “What’s the essential story here?” After all, this classic comedy has been interpreted on stage, on film and even as a musical.

Short Shakespeare! The Taming of the Shrew

Feb. 25-April 7
Saturdays at 11 a.m.

Her 75-minute abridged version of the show, “Short Shakespeare! The Taming of the Shrew,” includes the famously misunderstood sisters Kate and Bianca, as well as their suitors, but less excessive poetic language and fewer side stories. And while the actors may wear familiar Elizabethan pumpkin pants and corseted gowns, a contemporary rock and roll score sets the emotional tone.

“My goal is to make these characters relatable to today’s young people. I see Kate as a young girl trapped in the self-fulfilling prophecy of being unlovable. Only Petruchio doesn’t give in to it,” Rockwell says.

With the story stripped down, audiences don’t get bogged down by poetry or a million sub-plots. Of course, many of the supporting characters remain.

“After all, what are these suitors but a bunch of frat boys?” Rockwell says. “And Kate’s sister Bianca is that girl we all know who manipulates everyone while still seeming sweet and innocent.”

These themes and relationships are especially resonant for today’s teens, which is why the play is recommended for ages 10 and up. While the play’s central pretext of marriage as a business transaction may have changed, the issues of identity, first love and sexuality are timeless. Plus, it’s really funny.

If you’re still nervous about the very idea of Shakespeare, the preshow talk should reassure you.

“We always advise that audiences allow the language to wash over them like music,” Rockwell says. Don’t worry about the individual words so much as the tone and emotion you feel.

Part of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Family Series, the play is a great way to meet the Bard.

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