O, Brave New Everything

By Published On: August 11, 2009

Saint John Theatre Company presents The Taming of the Shrew

in an irreverent parking-lot production

It’s Shakespeare like you’ve never seen him.

Unless you’ve seen him performed in a parking lot with a beer in your hand.

Saint John Theatre Company is turning a classic on its head this summer with Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot), a boisterous and cheeky presentation of The Taming of the Shrew in the company’s Horsfield Street lot. In place of proscenium seating, there will be a tent, chairs, and cash bar. In place of elaborate staging and costumes you get knockdown drag-out fight sequences, dance numbers, and non-stop comedy. It’s Shakespeare for non-Shakespeare people, all under the summer sun this August.

The outdoor project was born out of the theatre company’s recent renovation of their historical building on 112 Princess Street. Executive Director Stephen Tobias describes the concept as almost a no-brainer.

“The idea really originated with the development of our loading dock area in the new production facility,” explains Tobias. “Once the deck was built, we realized that it would make a wonderful stage area. From there it wasn’t too much of a leap to move the ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ concept to our parking lot. All in all, it will be a fresh new approach.”

The venue is new, the concept is new, and even some of the cast is new. Recent Saint John arrival Maria Stoesser is taking on the role of Kate, the shrewish eldest daughter that must be married off before her younger sister can tie the knot. Relocated from Sarnia, Ontario, Stoesser has been relishing the challenge of a new place with new people.

“I really love Saint John,” says Stoesser. “Everyone is so welcoming, and the cast is amazing – mostly because each member, without exception, is a really hilarious, outgoing person.”

Playing one of literature’s more famous divas results in some great combative scenes between Stoesser and her onstage love interest Peter, played by real-life partner Kurt Galley. The lead characters share several tremendous spats on the way to true love.

“Kate [fights] with such a flourish of language you have to be kind of in awe of her,” says Stoesser. “What I love about this version of Kate is that she isn’t as mean as other portrayals I’ve seen – and in the end she isn’t as broken down. Our take isn’t about breaking the woman in, but is about a couple learning to compromise.”

The fresh spin on Shakespeare’s play comes at the hands of director Scott Thomas, whose past directorial credits include work with KV Players and local Improvisation Corporation. Thomas’ staging of the show is replete with audience participation, gag jokes, and strong characterizations from his troupe of ten actors.

The play’s outdoor rehearsals have already piqued the interest of its neighbours, with some of its antics almost resulting in police action.

“A guy who works for me lives on Horsfield Street,” recounts company member Jeff Smith.  “While the play was rehearsing the other day, he heard this loud man badgering this woman, and then it escalated to him being nasty to a whole group of women. My buddy’s girlfriend got worried and was about to call the cops when they eventually heard ‘Tis the moon’ and thought that sounded odd. They realized what was going on and nearly killed themselves laughing.”

Offering what Tobias describes as “Shakespeare for fun,” The Taming of the Shrew guarantees a fantastic night of alternative summer entertainment.

“The interaction between characters is a non-stop riot,” promises Stoesser. “If we do our job right, it should be a night to remember with a smile for a long, long time.”

Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot) plays August 12th to 14th at 7:00pm on Horsfield Street. Tickets are $15, and can be reserved by calling 652-7582. For the complete festival schedule, visit www.saintjohntheatrecompany.com

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