Posts Tagged ‘Program Notes’

Here you can find the program notes for last week’s screening of Deliver Us From Eva.

deliver us from eva poster

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Although we are accustomed to thinking of Shakespeare as the author of The Taming of the Shrew, this title is first formally established in reference to an anonymous play entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1594. The Stationers’ Register comprises the records maintained by the Stationers’ Company of London, which was a guild which has operated under royal charter since 1557 to regulate practices within the book trade, from printing to bookbinding and bookselling, and in this case it alerts us to what appears to be the first printing of a ‘bad’ quarto version of Shakespeare’s play, probably reconstructed from memory by actors of The Taming of the Shrew. The date of The Taming of the Shrew is a complex question, as there are only scant records about early performances, including a reference again from 1594 to a play called ‘The Tamynge of A Shrowe’ in Philip Henslowe’s Diary which was intriguingly played in the same week as Andronicus which may well have been another early Shakespearean work, Titus Andronicus. However, whilst the first known official attribution of The Taming of the Shrew to Shakespeare comes to us through the First Folio of 1623, the combination of printed and manuscript archival records strongly suggest that this is one of his earliest dramatic creations, and scholarly consensus currently points to a composition date between 1590 and 1591.

            As one of Shakespeare’s earliest works, it is interesting that The Taming of the Shrew draws extensively upon Renaissance comedic pop culture for its narrative: although very few direct sources have been identified for the play’s main characters, the forthright and unforgiving Katherina and her would-be suitor Petruchio, the idea of woman-as-shrew, or scold, was a stock subject for jestbooks in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The ‘scolding of a shrew’ is listed as one of the ‘six ill sounds’ of the world in a joke book in the mid-seventeenth century, the Merry Drollery of 1661 offers guidelines on ‘how to choose a shrew’ in its ‘Advice to Bachelors’, whilst in 1693 a ‘merry Poet’ recalls a tale in which a ‘newly married man’ offers his ‘shrewd wife’ as the best form of torture to punish a wolf who has been ravaging local villagers. Along with Shakespeare’s own Katherina, these examples represent an intriguing combination of deep-rooted misogyny with humor in a way which can be deeply unsettling to modern audiences. It is worth considering the fact that in Richard II in 1597 Shakespeare uses the adjective ‘shrewd’ to indicate the danger of a very sharp sword, and for modern spectators, the shrew may yet be able to transform from a standing joke into a cunning and worthy opponent for her male detractors.

Deliver Us From Eva directed by Gary Hardwick (2003)

In this adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, Eva Dandridge (Gabrielle Union) is a Los Angeles Health Inspector whose career attributes of perfectionism, directness, and bouts of officiousness are not well-received when she applies them at home to minister to the personal lives of her three sisters. Each of the three younger sisters’ plans are thwarted by Eva’s interference, and by reconfiguring Shakespeare’s sisterly dynamic between Katherina and Bianca in relation not only to Eva’s personal qualities but also her professional life, Hardwick’s film begins to elucidate a slightly different picture of the modern-day shrew than that put forth on the early modern stage. For although Eva is, in her own words, ‘uncompromising’ and ‘wear[s] it as a badge of honor’, she is true to her word when she states of ‘principle’ that ‘maybe the world is in short supply, but I am not’. Indeed, Eva takes the concept of the early modern shrew and uses it to launch a stinging attack in a battle of the sexes as she describes ‘women who aspire to culture, and men who aspire to scratch themselves’. In keeping with the source material, Eva hits so hard with her sweeping critique of all men that her words venture into misandry, but as director Hardwick has stated, she emerges as a ‘turbo-feminist’. As in Shakespeare’s play, a potential suitor is recruited for Eva, the ‘Master Player’, Ray Adams (LL Cool J), who is paid by Eva’s three brothers-in-law to distract, seduce, and then dump her. The brothers-in-law hope that Ray will be a sufficient diversion to stop Eva from interfering with their lives. However, after a rocky beginning, it is Eva’s very resolve and intelligence which seduce Ray, and when their relationship blossoms the brothers-in-law find that the newly-content shrew poses an even greater problem than she did before.

            Deliver Us From Eva is an African-American Shakespearean film adaptation, and Hardwick stated that one of his greatest motivations in making the movie was ‘to see Eva on screen. [He had] never seen a woman, much less a black woman, like her in a movie’, and in Eva’s sharp-tongued, witty exchanges the shrew appears less and less like an irritating scold and more and more like an empowered hyper-achiever. Indeed, not only is Eva herself a powerful female character, but her three sisters, Kareenah (Essence Atkins), Bethany (Robinne Lee), and Jacqui (Meagan Good) are likewise outspoken and forthright, allowing this adaptation to suggest that a modern incarnation of shrewishness may actually be more shrewd than shrew.

Dr. Emma Annette Wilson

Audio for Richard III

Posted: October 8, 2014 by nrhelms in Audio, Program Notes
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Here you can find a partial recording of October 1st’s staged reading of Richard III, as well as the Richard III, cut. The recording starts with pre-show music, and the performance proper starts at minute 29. Unfortunately, due to the size of the original audio file and the size of the memory card I was using, the recording only goes to act 4 of the show.

Richard III

And here, the cast list and Jacob Crawford’s program notes for the show:


Richard, Duke of Gloucester (David Ainsworth)

George, Duke of Clarence, his brother (Richard LeComte)

King Edward IV, his brother (Austin Whitver)

Queen Elizabeth, Edward’s wife (Gabrielle Perkins)

Prince Edward (Bert McLel)

Young Prince (Jennifer Sudduth)

Duchess of York, mother of the brothers (Deborah Parker)

Lady Anne, widow of Prince Edward (Dakota Park-Ozee)

Lord Buckingham (Charles Prosser)

Lord Brackenbury (Renwick Jones)

Lord Catesby (Wes Youngson)

Lord Hastings (Emily Pitts Donahoe)

Lord Rivers (Allison Wheatley)

Lord Stanley (Charles Barkley)

Lord Tyrrel (Alex Ferretti)

Earl of Richmond, King Henry VII (Mark Hughes Cobb)


Nic Helms (Director)

Jacob Crawford (Assistant Director)

Laurie Arizumi (Music)

Improbable Fictions presents

Richard III

A play by William Shakespeare

Sponsored by the Hudson Strode Program of Renaissance Studies

Brief Overview

Richard III is the fourth and final play in the Henry VI tetralogy. It is one of Shakespeare’s first plays, written between 1592 and 1593, and it is one of his longest plays—second only to the quarto edition of Hamlet. (Fear not, my friends! Our version is abridged!) Although it is grouped among the histories in Shakespeare’s First Folio, it is labeled a tragedy in the Quarto edition. That said, it is a witty, darkly entertaining play that offers a bleak view of kingship and the price of power. Its biting commentary on greed, corruption, and authority is still relevant—especially in light of recent events in the Middle East.


Richard III was the King of England between 1483 and 1485. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His death at Bosworth Field marked the end of the War of the Roses and represents the end of the Middle Ages. To this day, Richard III remains one of the most unpopular kings in English history. Although he suffered severe scoliosis, most stories and plays about him, including Shakespeare’s play, exaggerate his monstrous afflictions. (Today, we continue this tradition through our casting of David Ainsworth.)

Much A-did

Posted: October 8, 2010 by nrhelms in Program Notes, Shakespeare
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Thanks to everyone–cast, crew, and audience–for making last night’s staged reading of Much Ado About Nothing a success. So many great moments, from Cee Lo Green to “Kill Claudio” to the “hands of justice!” Be sure to subscribe to this blog for information about future readings.

(King Lear, November 17th!)

Here are Alaina Jobe’s dramaturgical notes from the program. I think they sum up the production and the mission of Improbable Fictions quite well.

“As with most comedies, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing puts a great deal of emphasis on the power of words: witty words, suspicious words, confusing words, unkind words, and, finally, three little words. Words form the basis of the comedy, and we laugh at the verbal spars between Beatrice and Benedick, Dogberry’s misunderstandings, Don Pedro’s jokes, and the multitude of double entendres that color the play. Benedick and Beatrice’s verbal sparring constructs the witty backbone of Much Ado, forming much of the dramatic tension and giving us some of the best insults in Shakespeare. Their interactions are precursors to many of our contemporary romantic comedies, which are oftentimes verbally driven. Words keep Benedick and Beatrice apart and words unite them— at the end, they have both written sonnets that reveal their true emotions.

“The titles of Shakespearean comedies are oftentimes self-denigrating, to the point that we must consider whether they contain some clue into the overall message of the play, a sly way of saying what the play is about— by virtue of the fact that the title is pointing out that what we see and hear onstage is Much Ado About Nothing, we should scrutinize the contents of the play in order to determine if this is indeed just a lot of talking over what does not even really matter. And if we more carefully examine how words are used in this play, we see that they do not merely make us laugh. They can also wound, plant suspicion, and ask for death. Hero’s honor is held in suspicion based on a rumor. Soon after declaring her love to Benedick, Beatrice quite seriously requests him to “kill Claudio.” We do not know why Don Pedro and Don John are estranged, but Don John’s heated words are notably angry and vindictive and those emotions dictate his subsequent choices.

“Words are powerful. They hurt just as much as they heal. They can indicate love as well as hate. And most importantly, they inform actions. We make decisions based on our words and the words of others. Much Ado shows us this and cautions us to be more careful about we say, and to perhaps think more carefully, if not make a fuss over, what we consider to be nothing more than syllables spoken into air.”