That’s one groovey ‘Shrew’ — a liberating twist on Shakespeare comedy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 12:00am

‘The Taming of the Shrew’ cast, featuring the Byron & Beth Smith Apprentice Company

For more than 20 years, Nashville Shakespeare Festival has been finding fresh and innovative ways to breathe new life into the Bard’s familiar words.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Brenda Sparks, director of NSF’s Apprentice Company production of The Taming of the Shrew, has found a fresh and innovative way to inspire her young cast and crew — Facebook.

“I created a Facebook group very early in pre-production to serve as a central meeting place for our cast, crew and creative team,” said Sparks, a respected actor and director who has been active with NSF since 1996. “It’s a great way to share ideas and collaborate, plus the kids got the chance to see how the creative process really works — the dramaturgical work, the evolution of the design. It allowed us to come into the first day of rehearsals completely in sync, which is pretty exciting.”

Of course, Sparks is also excited about this particular production’s unique framework. Set in the late 1960s, this Shrew has the strong-willed Katherine matching wits with a rebellious Petruchio.

“A couple of years ago our artistic director, Denice Hicks, staged a successful Laugh-In inspired production of Shrew at Harpeth Hall. I loved the idea of setting this play in the late ’60s/early ’70s, and Laugh-In provided a great source of comedic inspiration. But the more we got into the text and really studied the characters, we realized that the women’s liberation movement would provide a great way of understanding Kate.

“Using that time period and that movement as a jumping off point, Kate’s anger becomes more purpose driven, and the role of Petruchio becomes less abusive and misogynistic. And instead of the end of the play being all about her submission to Petruchio, this change in time period helps us explore the equality of their relationship.”

Sparks says that the cast — made up primarily of local teens — is enjoying the “groovy” twist, which is reflected in the show’s design, costumes and music.

“They are having a blast,” she said. “And they are absolutely fearless in their work. I’m so proud of them. It is an honor and a joy to work with these talented young people.”

What: The Taming of the Shrew performed by The Byron & Beth Smith Apprentice Company
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays (with pre-show entertainment beginning at 6:30 p.m.) Aug. 13-23
Where: Centennial Park Bandshell, 2600 West End Ave.
Cost: $5 suggested donation
Info: 255-2273,
• Bleacher seating available or bring your own blanket or lawn chair. Picnics and pets welcome. Food and drink also available for purchase on site.