The Cast Keeps ’Em Laughing

Kiss Me, Kate

Early into the first big number of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, “Another Op’nin, Another Show,” comes this classic expression of thespian dread: “Four weeks you rehearse and rehearse / Three weeks, and it couldn’t be worse / One week, will it ever be right?”

Yet, with two weeks left for rehearsal on Kiss Me, Kate, the main production staff—co-directors Beatrice E. Kitzinger ’03 and Julia A. Griffin ’03 and choreographer Caitlin C. Gillespie ’05—appear anything but worn down. They are, in fact, gleeful.

Rocking in their line of folding chairs, the directors laugh at nearly every scene, sometimes hysterically. They clap eagerly at the end of songs, or in the middle. And often they will gaze at their cast with a mixture of pride, gratitude and awe.

“I love it that they laugh,” says cast member Jess R. Burkle ’06. “After they’ve seen us hundreds and hundreds of times, they’re still laughing.”

A forerunner of the mini-genre of “insider chic,” Kiss Me, Kate depicts a warring couple, actor-director Fred Graham (Joseph H. Weintraub ’05) and starlet Lilli Vanessi (Jean M. Flannery ’04), whose offstage feud affects the performance of a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in which the two co-star. Its top-drawer Porter score, filled with tricky diction and prankster flourishes, encourages performances that are expansive, even shamelessly theatrical.

This natural exuberance first attracted Kitzinger and Griffin to the show, and their delight in the theatrical process itself informs everything they do. “This has been a great cast for ideas,” Griffin enthuses. “People are so real, so willing to take chances.”

Many aspects of the production, they say, were shaped around the company’s suggestions, improvisations and varied performance strengths. For example, Gillespie’s original choreography is designed to feature the strong dance talents of individual company members.

“I’ve tried to give them real characters to play…and material they can take and make their own,” she says.

The spirit and encouragement so abundant in the production’s staff is palpable in the cast as well.

“My favorite thing to do in the show is performing ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ with Matt [Weinstock ’05], David [Blazar ’06], and Camila [Brickell],” says Brady Williams ’06. “It’s really cute. Cat did a great job. It makes me smile every time I do it.”

“It’s really like coming into a whole acting family,” says Tony L. Chin-Quee ’05, who says he is greatly looking forward to his show-stopper as the ‘Too Darn Hot guy.’ “It’s just a lot of fun.”

—Kiss Me, Kate will be performed at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The cast will perform excerpts from the musical at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the main sanctuary of Memorial Church.