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Mark Randolph: Shakespeare on Love Senior Seminar

bardWhen the Bard beckons, the “Shakespeare on Love Senior Seminar” hearkens. 

Justin Tseng, Zak Brustman and Jacob Kauppi joined me on a pilgrimage to see Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew at the world-renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  This was the sixth such trip taken by the Shakespeare on Love Senior Seminar, dating back to 2006.

This year’s performance was particularly exciting as front-row seats suddenly became a star turn for Brustman, who inadvertently joined the show when one of the performers decided to improvise with him. (All present agreed that he discharged his role notably.)

The Taming of the Shrew proved a particularly significant offering. Scholars and performers agree that The Taming of the Shrew is a particularly troubling piece of work. Besides the fact that the opening frame tale for the story, the dream of the drunken Christopher Sly, evaporates during the course of the  play, the actual ‘taming’ concept is anti-feminist and absolutely unwatchable.  Consequently, directors must revise the text as inherited.

And indeed, the play’s director and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Artistic Director, Barbara Gaines, retrieved the play for contemporary sensibilities masterfully. Along with writer Ron West, she set Taming in a Chicago woman’s club at the height of the suffragette movement. Mounting their Taming, the woman’s club completes the entire Shakespeare oeuvre so that they might put a feather in their cap. But it is clear that they are holding their collective noses to achieve the summit.

This framing device allows for commentary on the play and relevant social movements.  Kauppi offered a ringing endorsement of the play and the trip:

“The Chicago Shakespeare company put on a super interesting and funny version of one of the more difficult Shakespeare plays, which prompted me to think about the evolving role of women in society.”

But besides the intellectual and cultural fare, he noted, the eating was also quite good.

“All the food we had was good, from the Giordano’s pizza on the first night to the Italian beef we had for lunch before leaving,” he said. “The Chicago Shakespeare trip was highly enjoyable and a huge success.”

Between the Giordano’s pizza, a trip to The Field Museum, and lunch at the famous Al’s Italian Beef, this hardy group of pilgrims agree that they made the most of their pilgrimage.  Here’s to a living tradition!

—Mark Randolph, English department

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.