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Shrewd moves

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Brandon Shockey, left, as Hortensio, and Jessie Kraemer, as Tranio, perform a scene from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” at a rehearsal with Wayside’s Education in Action program. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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Jessie Kraemer, left, talks with Olivia Adams, center, an ensemble member and Pedant, in a scene at a recent rehearsal. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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Jessie Kraemer rehearses with Josh Shelor, as Lucentio. — Rich Cooley/Daily

Teens tame Bard's play in program for Wayside youth

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

MIDDLETOWN -- Theater-goers might better know it as "10 Things I Hate About You," the hit 1999 movie about a young man who agrees to charm the older sister of a girl -- Bianca -- who's only shot at (short-term) happiness depends on her sister Kat's decision to date. Or, they might be more familiar with the 1948-Tony Award-winning musical "Kiss Me, Kate," of a similar premise.

But the original story of Katherina and Bianca, in William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," began romancing audiences in the late 1500s. It's a timeless tale of deception, begrudging acceptance and eventual love, and this month it takes to the outdoor stage at the former Civil Cricket Cafe in Middletown, through Wayside Theatre's Education in Action Program.

The group of teens and tweens from area schools chose the play last year and said rehearsals have been building up momentum to what should be an exciting and memorable show.

"Oh, I think it's going," said Brandon Shockey, 17, who plays Hortensio.

Jessie Kraemer, 18, who plays Tranio, has been looking forward to the show since last year.

"Oh, yeah, I think it could be our best work yet," she said.

They use a condensed version of Shakespeare's original text, said director Megan McShea, but the cast has no doubt that audiences will relate, even if they aren't familiar with more modern versions of the story.

"I feel like it's not even going to be an issue this time," Kraemer said. "I can say that with confidence."

When Bianca's many suitors learn that her parents won't allow her to marry before her older and less-desirable sister does, they plot for Petruchio, a gentleman from Verona, Italy, to sweep her off her feet ... which he eventually does more literally than she wishes, when he tricks her into marrying him and then carries her off to his home.

Wayside interns, Jody Lee and Dana Colagiovanni, play Petruchio and Katherina, respectively.

"It's Katherina, Katherine and Kate," McShea said. "they call her all three in this play."

Despite decades-long criticism surrounding misogynistic elements of the play, its farcical qualities have helped it endure through the centuries. And in the hands of talented teens, it has the ability to become even more comical.

McShea told the cast to perform their roles as they saw fit, giving them needed direction but otherwise allowing them to make the characters their own.

"It's really fun to see," she said. "I say here's where everything is, go."

As a result, "It just turned into a very physical show," she said.

Other roles include Tiffany Waters as Bianca, Macki Kraemer as Gremio, Josh Shelor as Lucentio and Kaitlin Duley as Grumio.

Program participants usually range from ages 13 to 18, McShea said, but this year's youngest participant is stage manager Audrey Nacagawa, 11.

"She get all of it, just as much as we do," said Jessie Kraemer, treasurer for the program board.

"While it is for youth," McShea said, "... I don't see much difference between Dana and Jody and the youth who are performing."

She said sometimes in youth plays, the quality isn't as good as it would be if only professionals were performing.

"That's really not the case in this," McShea said. "We don't allow that to happen."

Usually the youth program's performances are at local schools, but this year's will be in the outdoor garden at the old Civil Cricket, where the group has been rehearsing on weekends.

"Next year we're doing 'The Tempest," McShea said. She said the student-run Youth Ambassador's Guild votes for which plays they'll perform.

"They're basically a board of directors for the education programs at Wayside," said McShea, who acts as their liaison with the theater.

It was because of the guild's vote that 15-year-old Duley was able to join the program earlier than she'd expected.

"I actually just started [at the] theater in the summer," she said. "I've pretty much been doing anything and everything that I can here."

The guild inducted her by unanimous vote earlier this spring, she said, though normally they vote during the summer.

"It's like the elite program. You can't get in unless everyone votes you in," she said. "That was a big honor for me."

Being able to work with professional actors in various plays also has been exciting for Duley. It's helped her grow as an actor, and she hopes to pursue acting as a career.

"It's a great bonding experience," she said. As Grumio, she works one-on-one with Lee at Petruchio, she said.

"[Grumio] is the main lead man's servant," Duley said. "I'm in on his whole gig."

"I've learned a lot from him, more than, I'd say, from anyone else."

Wayside Theatre's Education in Action program will perform "The Taming of the Shrew" at the former Civil Cricket, at 7868 Main St. in Middletown, April 20-22. Performances will be at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Rain dates will be April 27-29. Tickets range from $10 to $15. For more information, contact the theater at 869-1776.

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