Training of the Shrew Thinks Outside the Box(ing Ring)

KPU students and instructors kick ass in performance at Fringe Fest

Baptista Minola and Bianca “The Golden Girl” Minola celebrate a victory in the ring.

One line from William Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew—”Knock, sir! Whom should I knock? Is there a man has rebused your worship?”began it all.

“‘Whom should I knock, sir?’— and all of a sudden I pictured boxing gloves,” says Fred Ribkoff, an instructor at KPU as well as the co-director and co-writer of Training of the Shrew, which stars several students and staff members from KPU.

The Training of the Shrew, an interpretation of the famous comedy by William Shakespeare, stays true to the general structure of The Taming of the Shrew, but comes with a big twist. In this case, Katherine, known as “the shrew,” and her younger sister Bianca are both female boxers.

“Bianca ‘the Golden Girl’ Minola” cannot sign to a trainer until one is found for “Katherina ‘the Curst’ Minola.” Rather than Petruchio wooing Kate and “taming” her with love, he is interested in her “glove” as a trainer.

The show has been in re-writes since last year, but a version of the play has been actively rehearsed since June of 2018. This version ran at Vancouver’s Fringe Fest from Sept. 7 to 16.

“Much of the play is Shakespeare’s text,” says Ribkoff, who is also co-founder of the 1001 Steps Theatre Society. “I wrote in a training scene … I turned a male character, Gremio, into a woman and her name is Amazona Donna and she is the trainer of women boxers and the tamer of men.”

According to a KPU student and actor in the play, Stephanie Suzanne, the Ribkoff’s revisions make the story less sexist and generally more palatable than Shakespeare’s original. She also describes her time on the cast as “an immense learning experience.”

“I’ve learned so much about teamwork because you get so close to the people you act alongside,” she says.

When it comes to performing Shakespeare, actors have to communicate in a very physical way because contemporary audiences have a hard time following the language in his works. Because of this, they “really have to pay attention to the rhythm of the language as well as the physicality,” explains Suzanne.

Between its action-packed fight scenes, mild stunt work, and boxing ring style set, Training Of The Shrew is sure to draw a crowd. Throughout the evening, theatre-goers will see a “Jazz Man” playing George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, a “Ring Guy” showing some skin to hype up the audience, and naughty dynamics between Bianca and Lucentio that would make your grandmother blush.

According to Suzanne, the cast saw “a really great turnout” every night of the performance.

If you are hoping to get involved in theatre, you can take one of the Interdisciplinary Expressive Arts (IDEA) courses at KPU. To keep up with future works my 1001 Steps, check out their website.

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