Josh Hornbeck, artistic director of quiet, and his brother Matt Hornbeck continued their discussion of quiet’s mission to produce a “beacon of discussion.”
Your current production is a re-imagined Taming of the Shrew with a Mad Men vibe. What inspired this?
Josh: From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted to keep Kate’s final monologue (the one in which she talks about giving up her identity and her will and submitting wholly to Petruchio) intact. In most modern productions, the monologue is trimmed down, cast in an ironic light, or cut out all together. But since we’re focusing on issues of gender inequity through our production, I knew that her monologue would become central to all we wanted to say with the play. It just became a matter of finding a concept for the production that would be relevant to a modern audience.
And that fit into 1960s?
Josh: As I considered the text and the characters, I started seeing quite a few parallels between Shrew and one of my favorite TV shows, Mad Men – especially in the casual sexism that we see displayed toward the women in both shows. As we keep exploring the play, the transition from Elizabethan England to 1960’s New York has really felt effortless. The time period lends itself to this play so well.
What type of intermission or post-play discussion do you expect to hear in the lobby?
Matt: First I think that people will be floored by the level of talent and passion that each actor brings with them onstage. That is very important to us – that people are able to experience a great piece of art. If that foundation is laid, I think it will free the audience to think more critically and intentionally about the roots of sexism in our contemporary society. This element of dialogue and discussion is so important to quiet that we have purposefully put into each of our productions a dialogue component at the end of each performance. This is where our collaborations with various social organizations come into play.
And how do you think the sexual politics of Shakespeare’s play still relevant today?
Josh: The play was obviously written hundreds of years ago, and even though we’re setting it fifty years ago, I truly think Shrew still has something to say to us in 2011. Although the oppression of women may not be as overt as it is in the play, it’s still with us. Each of the men in The Taming of the Shrew expresses chauvinism in a slightly different manner. You can still see each of these attitudes in men today – from physical and emotional abuse we see in countless relationships (Bella and Edward of “Twilight”-fame) to the objectification of women in media.
Every production, you work with groups around town to spark discussions. Who is coming to Taming of the Shrew?
Matt: At the end of each performance, we invite the audience to stay for a panel discussion with members from our partner organizations: EDVP, NWMP, and GLSEN. Each panel discussion is geared towards finding connections between the art we just engaged with and the everyday ways in which we can apply what we’ve seen in our daily lives – personal transformation! Based on the dialogue we had during our last production, “Pick-Up Artist: The Musical”, I am anticipating a lively set of discussions that will make us investigate (or even re-investigate) our assumptions about gender-roles in society and our acceptance with such assumptions.
The Taming of Shrew continues through Feb. 25. For more information, see the company’s website.