WINONA, Minn. – A centerpiece play in this summer’s Winona Shakespeare festival, an avant-garde adaptation of “The Taming of the Shrew,” has been cancelled and the director sent home to Los Angeles. The cancellation was announced in an unsigned statement from management of the Great River Shakespeare Festival. The statement attempted to soft-pedal differences between director Lisa Wolpe and the cast and crew. Spurces said that Wolpe made an ultimatum – in effect her way or no way. She lost. Festival management said the cast and crew all will be  fully compensated for their work. “All, save the director, have other assignments at the festival,” the statement said.

What now?

“Taming of the Shrew:” was set to open June 20 and run in a cycle with “Twelfth Night” and a play set in  New York the 1840s about a black troupe attempting to stage Shakespeare’s  “Richard III.” Ticket-holders to “Taming of the Shrew” will be offered refunds. Tickets were $10 to $49.  An option can be tickets to a yet-to-be announced replacement production.

As Cliff’s Notes would tell it

“The Taming of the Shrew” is one of Shakespeare’s more controversial plays. The title is a reference to a new husband’s attempt to “tame” his assertive wife. The story has sparked ongoing debates; Was Shakespeare depicting sexism in a critical way or simply being sexist. The Lisa Wolpe revision further complicated divided views about the play by reversing the gender roles and casting a black man as the pushy and bullish wife and also placing it in the American Old West.

Wolpe.  Known in theater circles worldwide for her Shakespeare afaptations that make statements abiutt gender parity, diversity and socio-political power in the arts. But not this time. Not in Winona.

Wolpe theatrical record

Wolpe was the founding artistic director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company from 1993 to 2016. She has been guest directed at:

> California Shakespeare.

> Colorado Shakespeare.

> Shakespeare and Company.

> Sedona Shakespeare.

> New York University, University of Southern California, , UC-Los Angeles, Boston University, and Colorado-Boulder.


Festival management: “Great River Shakespeare Festival has made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel our upcoming production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ which has been adapted and directed by Lisa Wolpe. ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ as written by William Shakespeare, is thorny, difficult, and provocative. Lisa’s gender-swapped and multi-racial adaptation does not seek to neutralize the play but instead asks us to consider how we feel about the assertive Kate’s anger when her words are voiced by a black man cast in her role. Her script challenges our attitudes on gender and subjugation, race and agency. It is an adaptation done with a deep understanding of the original Shakespeare text and infused with Lisa’s own visionary talent. We respect and honor the work Lisa, the designers, actors, stage managers, and production teams have done at Great River.

“As producers, we underestimated the time needed to fully unpack all of the sensitive nuances in this adaptation. Everyone involved approached the production with integrity and the best of intentions. However, the pressures of time, as well as the charged nature of the play’s content, contributed to an atmosphere in the rehearsal room that was difficult, even impossible, given our desire to enable deep listening on a very tight schedule.

“After striving without success to find a way to move forward we have decided to cancel our production. This is a heartbreaking decision but one that we sincerely feel is required to protect the health and well-being of everyone in our company. We prioritize the humanity of our company members above all else. We are deeply saddened for those whose artistry is affected by this decision.”