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Shrew for you

Theater Artists Olympia goes to hell to stage a play

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Theater Artists Olympia takes pride in being the quirky theater that even the liberal, artsy folks of the state capital would consider a bit out there. It can talk the talk because it certainly walks the walk, staging shows — and its own revisions of works — that carry TAO’s own brand of theater.

For starters, TAO staged “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” and “Cannibal the Musical” last year. So, it seems fitting that the theater would take a whack at arguably the bawdiest work William Shakespeare ever wrote. While other theaters stage Shakespearian plays because they are not only known works but also copyright free, which translates into bankable shows, TAO aims celebrate the poetic language of the Bard as well as point out that Shakespeare was a dirty bird when it came to bawdy jokes.

“Shakespeare wrote for the masses,” says TAO troupe member and show director Pug Bujeaud.

TAO’s staging of “The Taming of the Shrew” tells the story of Katherina Minola, who has a problem. She lives in Hades, and her dad is the devil. Her family life is what could best be described as unsatisfying. In true royal style, her father decrees that before her sister can marry Kate must have a ring around her finger. And there aren’t a lot of offers to be the man to put it there. Then comes Petruchio, a man who is always up for a good challenge. And this broad meets his match.

Theaters often shy away from staging the show because critics have called it anti-woman, but TAO hits that topic head-on and has a bit of fun with it — much like it does for the whole show. The play is full of clowns, devils, pirates, and fallen angels. There are pole dancers and sword fights, one-liners and double entendres.

“We just decided to run with it,” Bujeaud says. “It’s us after all. It was almost thrown down as a challenge.”

The staging of the show in Hades, a suburban town just outside of hell for the folks who don’t remember their mythology, allows the theater to play with time and space. The show has zoot suits and Victorian dresses, and the centuries between them don’t seem to matter. The theater tossed around the idea of having Elvis in the role of the preacher, but that idea fell by the wayside.

“There was a lot of playing around with it,” Bujeaud says. “But we eventually said bye-bye to that idea.”

One idea that morphed into something that stayed was a shift from Vikings to pirates. TAO originally thought about Vikings but thought that swashbuckling pirates seemed more universal.

“William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew” runs at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday through July 15 at Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Performing Arts, Black Box Theater at South Puget Sound Community College. Tickets are $12 and available at More information is available at

More Shakespeare

Another version of another Bard play is also making its way around the South Sound. Shakespeare In the Parking Lot Theatre and Bard Intensive NW are staging “Macbeth” in a way only SIPLT could.

“Macbeth: When the Hurly Burley’s Done” has the title role staged as a presidential candidate running a whistle-stop tour with full productions of the work set to come during the month of November as part of Art At Work in Tacoma.

The show features Christopher Cantrell as Macbeth and Samantha Underwood as Lady Macbeth. The next presidential event will be Saturday, July 7, at Art on the Ave. More information is available at:

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