Attitudes toward William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” have changed over the centuries since its premiere, but whatever the current cultural interpretation, the play has long provided a lens to examine the battle of the sexes. Lantern Theater Company’s new production, turns the eternal dance between men and women into a literal one, depicting the tempestuous courtship of Petruchio and Katherina via the tango.
The Lantern production, directed by Charles McMahon, sets the play in the 1930s, as Petruchio (played by J Hernandez) and his servant Grumio bring the tango to Padua, the northern Italian city where the story is set.
“They have this new way of moving, a new way of communicating physically, and that infects Padua,” says choreographer and actress K.O. DelMarcelle, who plays Katherina’s sister Bianca. “Eventually this tango-inspired movement takes over the world of the play and by the end we’re all moving and dancing in this devised physicality.”
Though best known as an actress familiar on Philadelphia stages, DelMarcelle is also a dancer trained in the Arthur Murray tradition, and she worked closely with McMahon to develop the stylized tango movement for the play.
“We decided the best option was to devise our own physical vocabulary inspired by the tango tradition,” she explains. “I told Charles that we’re not ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ we’re not professional dancers, and I didn’t think that we could become outrageous ballroom dancers given the time frame of rehearsal. I thought it would actually be more interesting to be inspired by American-style tango, Argentinean-style tango, and other social dance traditions to come up with our own physical vocabulary.”
DelMarcelle is used to working with untrained dancers as director of programming and lead instructor for Dancing With the Students, a local non-profit organization founded to teach ballroom dancing, manners, and respect to inner-city students. She’s also taught movement classes at a number of regional theater companies, but her work on “Taming of the Shrew” still proved to be a unique challenge. “I’ve never been in this position before, but it’s been terribly fun. With the ensemble of actors that we have and with Charles at the helm, it’s super-collaborative, and I lean on my actors to help because I know that I can. We move around and try stuff out and Charles tells us if it’s hideous or it’s working.”
‘The Taming of the Shrew’
Through May 3
St. Stephen’s Theater
10th and Ludlow streets