Shakespeare fans rejoice! The N.C. A&T Theatre Arts Program is bringing the Bard’s classic “The Taming of the Shrew” to the stage for eight performances.

“The Taming of the Shrew” tells the story of the rocky courtship between headstrong noblewoman Katharina (the “shrew” of the title) and ambitious Petruchio. The comedy tells the story of their up-and-down relationship and how Petruchio tries to “tame” the opinionated Katharina.

Obviously, gender relations have changed greatly in the more than 400 years since Shakespeare wrote the play. So the way Petruchio treats Katharina in “The Taming of the Shrew” can be problematic to modern audiences — and topic for artistic exploration.

“I always tell people that I like to call it, ‘The Taming of the Shrew — and the Playboy,’” said director Xulee-Vanecia J. She said Katharina gives as good as she gets, and both main characters meet their match — and find common ground.

A&T student-actor Jaylynn Pasley, who portrays Katharina, said, “Katharina tames herself in the end. It’s an accidental love story that works.”

Pasley said her character is bored with the usual gentleman suitors who come courting. In Petruchio, she finds someone who challenges her — and she is drawn to him for that reason.

Ishmael Muhammad, who portrays Petruchio, describes his character as “an interesting take on the self-proclaimed genius playboy.” Muhammad said that behind Petruchio’s bravado, there is a young man deeply mourning his father, who recently died. That gives a depth to the character that otherwise might not be as sympathetic.

Likewise, Katharina has issues with her own family, particularly her sister, Bianca, who has her own romantic storyline brewing in the play. These family troubles bring Katharina closer to Petruchio.

In addition, Xulee said “The Taming of the Shrew” is “more silly than serious.” Petruchio’s attempts to woo Katharina aren’t portrayed as malicious in large part because they are shown to be over-the-top funny, she said.

Xulee added that Shakespeare hits on a universal constant — that human relationships are tricky.

“People are still trying to figure relationships out and how to love each other,” she said. This constant underlying truth makes “The Taming of the Shrew” appealing to contemporary audiences, more than four centuries after Shakespeare put pen to paper.

The A&T production also includes bright, modern visuals, costuming and music to accompany the classic text.

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Contact Bruce Buchanan at brucebuc@bellsouth.net.

This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.

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