As we’ve mentioned before, the Junior Players‘ production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew got off to a roaring start last night on the Shakespeare Dallas stage. Set on a gypsy campground in 1980’s France, director Valerie Hauss-Smith’s vision of the comedy favorite is fresh and exciting. The vibrant colors of both the set and the costumes gave the young actors a great deal to play with, and they ran with it.
The show’s 24 high-school actors gave up most of their summer for the opportunity to perform at Samuell-Grand Park, and their passion came through in their performances. A total of about 80 students from the Dallas area auditioned for the show at the beginning of summer. The quarter of them that made it have been working hard at rehearsal ever since.
Given that many students never encounter Shakespeare before high school, the Junior Players showed an incredible command of the complex language. Add on top of that the controversial gender dynamics of The Taming of the Shrew — Kate’s outspoken nature is a trait that Petruchio seeks to stamp out. This is what makes the show so difficult to swallow for modern audiences, and the Junior Players handled it well. Characterizing Petruchio as harsh but ultimately well-meaning, actor Gerald Coleman plays him more as a joker than a villain. Even through the toughest scenes, the actors kept it light-hearted and funny, drawing the audience’s attention away from sexist over-tones. The addition of musical interludes also brought the gypsy camp to life, and showcased the beautiful dancing talent of the eclectic cast.
The cast handled the few usual hiccups of an opening-night performance with ease, bringing the audience right into gypsy France with them. In its 22nd year, the Junior Players’ Discover Shakespeare program has free theater education down to a science, with the help of their talented team of teaching artists. The audience was nearly full, with both excited parents and community members there to support the Junior Players.
The Taming of the Shrew will be at the Samuell-Grand Park Amphitheater through this Sunday, July 29th. The show is free and open to the public, so stop by and see some of Dallas’ most promising young talent!