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Mapping the Play: Discovering Kate with Maulik Pancholy

By Hannah Hessel Ratner

The Taming of the Shrew: the infamous title sets up certain expectations for the audience.  It is up to directors and actors to decide how they want to defy those expectations. With Maulik Pancholy as Kate, the so-called shrew, this production takes a fresh perspective on a notorious role.

Pancholy may be familiar from his work on television, most notably his recurring characters on 30 Rock and Weeds, but his stage work is vast. His classical training at the Yale School of Drama included a deep dive into Richard III, exploring the character through a one-man show.  His desire to fully understand the characters he plays was clear as he paused to reflect on playing Kate during the first weeks of rehearsals.

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Oliver Thornton (Bianca), Maulik Pancholy (Katherina) and the Ensemble in rehearsal for The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Ruthie Rado.

STC: You’ve only just started rehearsals, what is already getting you excited?

MP: Here’s what thrills me about this production—we are earnestly diving into the truth of Shakespeare’s text and exploring where his language takes us, and in complete concert with that, throwing open a window into these characters’ internal lives using the music of Duncan Sheik, and also expanding the world of the play into something that lives without a fourth wall but rather literally engages with the audience.

I feel quite lucky to be taking on a role that I honestly never imagined I would play, for the obvious fact that she’s a woman! And what a woman she is: Kate is intriguing, complicated and undergoes such a huge metamorphosis in the play, and I’m very interested in taking that journey.

STC: As an actor, where do you start Kate’s journey?

MP: As we start work on this play, I think of Katherina as a woman who finds herself ostracized in the world because she does not conform to an idea of what those around her want her to be.  And this has forced her to find ways to deal with that world—be it her wit, her “performance” of being a shrew that gives her agency, or her actual anger that often comes flying out from a deep well within her. She is an “other” in this world and while she’s working so hard to fight against that, I think, she also wants to find a place within it where she can experience that essential piece of what it is to be human: to love and be loved. I’ve certainly experienced what it feels like to be cast aside, excluded and made to feel like an “other.” And we don’t have to look far to see contemporary examples of people treated like this around us everywhere: be it based on race, sexuality, gender or beliefs.

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Peter Gadiot (Petruchio) and Maulik Pancholy (Katherina) in rehearsal for The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Ruthie Rado.

STC: As you said, you are being given a chance to play a part you never thought you would play. What other iconic roles are you interested in exploring?

MP: As an actor of color it’s not always a given that iconic roles will be available to you.  There’s a history in American theatre, television and film that has reserved a limited space for minority actors—whatever that minority might be.  So, I don’t take it lightly that we are exploding that on so many levels here: suddenly the whole canon opens up. So I’d love a Hamlet or a Henry V, but maybe, too, a Lady M or a Lady Anne!

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Part of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar’s magic is his ability to bring together a stunning range of talent. Here’s more on his cast of creatives.

Chase Brock (Choreography) has choreographed works nationally and internationally including Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Picnic on Broadway.

Peter Gadiot (Petruchio) has extensive stage and screen credits, including the films The Forbidden Girl, Night Wolf and 13 Hours and the television show Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Gadiot will soon star in the highly-anticipated new USA Network show Queen of the South, which is set to air in the summer of 2016.

Duncan Sheik (Music) is a singer-songwriter known for his solo albums and his composition work for the theatre. His music for Spring Awakening won him Tony Awards® for Original Score and Orchestrations and a Grammy Award® for Best Cast Album. Recently he composed the musical adaptation of American Psycho, currently on Broadway.

Jason Sherwood (Scenic Design) and Loren Shaw (Costume Design) have collaborated with Iskandar on multiple productions together including Sojourners, Charles Francis Chan Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery and The Mysteries.

Oliver Thornton’s (Bianca) West End theatre credits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the 40th anniversary production of The Rocky Horror Show, Children of Eden, Rent, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and Chicago.

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