Truly Taming The Shrew

Behind the scenes of the all-female performance of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."

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While the all-female Ghostbusters cast caused some people to throw temper tantrums earlier this summer, an all-female performance of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" was happening in Central Park as part of the Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park shows — and I had the opportunity to hang out with some of the cast. Backstage, there was a familiar energy, the same energy I felt while attending my all-girl high school. I talked to the actors while they were getting ready, and it was like spending a few hours with the family of your best friend — feeling immediately welcome and as if you never want to leave. I could go on and on, but instead we have these beautiful photographs by Melanie Dunea that perfectly capture the magic backstage and a few quotes from the women I spoke to about their experiences doing the play. I hope you enjoy. —Laia

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"This production is inventive and irreverent in, I think, all the right kind of ways. It's a great play, and because we're all women, we're sort of taking the mickey out of men, but we're slightly taking the mickey out of women too. If you can poke fun at yourselves, sometimes you can learn more than if you had had a serious conversation, because it's funny and it gives you license to be worse, especially playing Petruchio, who's, well, the biggest dick in the whole play. It's really fulfilling, if you're a woman, to play the most macho guy in the world, because it's just such a laugh." —Janet McTeer (Petruchio)

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"I want to do the female version of A Clockwork Orange. Just unapologetic, gorgeous brutality. Why can't we do that? I want to do that." —Gayle Rankin (Bianca)

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"There was a point where I stopped going into auditions for Shakespeare because they were being done "straight," but the fact that this is an all-female cast and I'm able to play a man is the best thing about it. First of all, how often do you get to seriously play a man and not be poking fun, but really going for it?" —Stacey Sargeant (Grumio)

"It is the most loving, caretaking group. I've been surrounded by misogyny for my entire career. In the rehearsal process, I was so aware of it — for 33 years I've been surrounded by male comics, who are, as you know, the most misogynistic men, I think, in the business. Here, we really are a family." —Judy Gold (Gremio)

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"Nobody does The Taming of the Shrew anymore because it's the hardest play to not be a dick about." —Rosa Gilmore (Lucentio)

"We can be more violent in this production. I don't think a male actor could do the things that Janet [who plays Petruchio] can and get away with it. I think it would make people just a little too uncomfortable." —Jackie Sanders (Servant)

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"I guess in the past, Shrew has always just been about Kate and Petruchio to me, and that's all that mattered, but in this production, because it's all women, somehow the other parts rise and amplify. There's a lot of other things going on that matter that didn't seem so important before." —Candy Buckley (Vincentio)

"It's so liberating to do this, because gender is so often exaggerated in theater. I've had many roles where I've had high heels and panty hose, a corset, fake eyelashes. My breathing is constricted and restrained and shaped by those things, which is necessary if you're doing a show like that, but just to step onstage and take a breath and be flat on my feet and just walk normally ... I don't think people understand how rare it is." —Leenya Rideout (Widow)

"Doing this production, I have learned that I am not so outdoorsy. That is what I have learned about myself. I am not one with bugs and raccoons and rain as much as maybe some other people are. I like air-conditioning. I like being indoors and looking at pretty things." —Donna Lynne Champlin (Hortensio)

"Doing this production, I learned how to speak up more and to fight for things that I want to do creatively. That I should not apologize or keep quiet, but voice how I feel about something." —Teresa Avia Lim (Biondello)

Melanie Dunea is the author and photographer of five books, including the My Last Supperseries. Melanie shoots food, travel, and portraits for advertising, entertainment, corporate, and music companies worldwide and is based in New York City. Follow Melanie on Instagram and Twitter.

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