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My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Paolo Santalucia explores the many sexualities of
The Taming of the Shrew

by Drew Rowsome

The Taming of the Shrew (The Bard's Bus Tour) runs Fri, July 8 to Sun, August 14. Toronto performances include:
Fri, July 8 at Todmorden Mills, 67 Pottery Rd.
Tues, July 19 to Sun, July 24 at Withrow Park, 725 Logan Ave.
Other cities can be found at driftwoodtheatre.com

"When I dress up as Lucentio there is a kind of androgyny at work but the fun thing is that I'm not exactly in drag," says Paolo Santalucia of his role in The Taming of the Shrew. This open-air production has been set during Pride in 1989 and Santalucia's Tranio is a sexual omnivore. "The take we have on it is that Tranio has tried all sorts of things.No matter where he lands he's very excited by the opportunities that this Pride Week is going to afford him. Even though there's no real love interest for Tranio in the play, it's really fun to explore what it means to be free and to be himself and uncloseted. And I get to wear some pretty outrageous costumes and they get to suggest whatever anyone might want to suggest about the sexuality of the character. "

Besides offering great visuals, Santlucia says that. "1989 was a very historic year for the Pride parade and for our director D Jeremy Smith it represents a time of great acceptance and great change. So being able to come together and perform this play during that time is a celebration of what it means to find relationships and have people accept you for who you are."

Pride this year, for better or for worse, is being influenced by the massacre in Orlando. Has it affected this production of The Taming of the Shrew? "I don't know how it couldn't have because of the gravity of what happened," says Santalucia. "I think we all realized that there is great power in telling stories about that struggle for freedom. The action of communities banding together and celebrating love for one another, that's powerful. So I'm very much fuelled by what happened and how necessary and important stories about acceptance are."

Driftwood Theatre Group takes Shakespeare's plays, loads the cast, crew and a stage on a bus, and travels to such far-flung and exotic places as Goderich, Pickering, Bloomfield, most of rural and urban Southern Ontario. "We're taking it to communities where people may not necessarily have the same kind of access that we do in Toronto. I live up the street from the Village and it's an amazing thing to walk to work and feel safe and included and recognize myself in multiple places within the 20 minutes it takes me to walk to the rehearsal hall. Not everyone has that and not everyone can see that in these plays. So to have Lucentio played by a woman and have her fall in love with Bianca and to have that celebrated by her gay best friend Tranio, that's really important right now, to be bringing those stories across the province."

With The Taming of the Shrew revisiting is almost a necessity, it is one of the most problematic of Shakespeare's plays: it is impossible to get an audience to root for a climax where a woman surrenders all to a man. But what if she was portrayed as a willing submissive and he as a dominant? "It opens up a whole avenue of judgement," , "It's a reminder that there are lots of communities within all walks of life that have risks and take a huge amount of bravery to be vocal about," says Santalucia. In a way, if that was the kind of relationship I strove for in life, I would have a way more difficult time taking and being open about that than I did when I came out as gay.  We kind of dare the audience to re-contextualize their thoughts around the  relationships in this play, and sort of dare them, you can judge it but it doesn't mean it isn't my truth. And that's a really beautiful message to end the play."

But we're all still curious about the outrageous and skimpy '80s costumes, as I wrote of Santalucia's turn in Mustard: "The only complaint is that when his classical French farce plot butt-baring caught-naked-in-bed moment happens, he is far too assiduous in keeping his strikingly hirsute torso concealed." Satalucia bursts out laughing, "That's very generous of you to say . . . Well you'll be seeing a lot more of that, The Taming of the Shrew has lots of skin from everybody. Lots of leather and lots of skin."

A lengthier version of this interview is at drewrowsome.blogspot.com

The Taming of the Shrew (The Bard's Bus Tour) runs Fri, July 8 to Sun, August 14. Toronto performances include:
Fri, July 8 at Todmorden Mills, 67 Pottery Rd.
Tues, July 19 to Sun, July 24 at Withrow Park, 725 Logan Ave.
Other cities can be found at driftwoodtheatre.com

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