Bridging the Gap Between synth pop and Shakespeare: Norfolk’s Jacki Paolella, Music Director of ‘Taming of the Shrew’
This is your Shakespeare 101 warm up:
Think of things that don’t change. Make a list. Right now. Stop reading, give yourself some think time, and make a list of things that don’t change. Do this for about 2-3 minutes. You may work with a shoulder partner.
Keep thinking as I explain where I’m going with this.
While waiting on Jacki Paolella for an interview about her involvement in the upcoming Virginia Stage Company production of “Taming of the Shrew,” I was reading Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds, a work of veiled post-war commentary. And as gripping as the story is, it really won’t last the way the works of William Shakespeare have, which I’d come here to discuss with Jacki. And the reason The Birds falls through is that war changes. It’s so different from what I learned in high school. Right now, it’s called so many different things. Call me naïve, but I think this is a fair assessment for anyone: I don’t really understand what is war and what it isn’t, if we’re in one or not, when it started, what it will look like if it ends, if people have to die for it to be so or if people can die and it not.
Now, I wouldn’t really take Shakespeare to the beach, but most wouldn’t take Maurier to the coffee shop, either, let alone the oceanfront. But there really is something timeless about Shakespeare, whether or not we’re applying sunscreen before we pick him up.
Look at your warm up, your list of things that don’t change. Chances are these are the major themes in Shakespeare’s work. That timelessness is exactly how and why Patrick Mullins and Jacki plan on hooking a theatrically cavalier audience to the theatre.
Specifically, though, we’re talking about “Taming of the Shrew.” And I hate to describe male and female interaction as something that hasn’t changed, but that’s what makes “Taming of the Shrew” so compelling—for better or worse, it hasn’t.
“It’s a problem play,” says Jacki, who studied the play in an English study abroad program through ODU. “Was [Shakespeare] serious? Was this really how they felt about women at the time? Or was he trying to say something, like, hey, this is kind of messed up?”
There is a lot on the line for Jacki with this production. Years of self-employment coming to profitable fruition, starting a meaningful conversation about how men and women interact, and reinvigorating the theatre scene with a younger audience who may not have been interested in its exposure.
I’ve known Jacki for several years, working with her on music projects through her work at TAP TAP Productions, Clay Garden Studios, and Harrington Labs. She’s a brilliant and charismatic music engineer. She has mixed, mastered, and written (as Little Trooper, DJP and MrT, and Wyteshayds) much of this city’s contemporary indie music. In this latest project through the Virginia Stage Company, she has composed the score and music for what she and Patrick are now calling a musical.
Until last summer, it’s been the self-employment shuffle for Jacki. With the onset of this production, Jacki has high hopes for her and Patrick’s Taming project, and I have high hopes for my friend’s future name and career.
“When I was a kid, it was just a question of whether or not people would ever hear my music at all,” says Jacki. “Now, I know that people are going to hear it. They may not enjoy it, but to actually know you’re going to have an audience…”
And Jacki’s right: this production guarantees an audience one can only hope for at an indie rock show.
“When you’re playing gigs, there’s absolutely no guarantee that anyone is going to show up.”
What’s more special is that this project brings Jacki within an institution, as she describes the Virginia Stage Company.
“They’ve been around for years and put on amazing productions that are over my head. The idea that I get to be involved with it in some sort of way, it’s like a dream come true.”
Many of Jacki’s newly found colleagues see Jacki working for the theatre for years to come.
We’ve seen recently a sea change in attitudes towards gender and LGBT equality. Most notably, people are accepting gay marriage in a way that totally flips attitudes of just eight to ten years ago. And sexual abuse and assault are talked about as problems that need—and can be—solved. Not all of society is on board, but we’re talking about these issues now in a way I never remember talking about them just five years ago.
Jacki describes the gist of the play’s message: “We should honor our husbands, let them step on our hands; they go out into the world and get things for us, the least we can do is love them when they get home.”
The characters are happy in the end, but the audience may feel a little squeamish with a resolution through submission. Petruchio “tames” a broodish, temperamental woman and convinces her of the values Jacki describes.
It’s a far cry from what we like to think our relationships are like, but as Jacki explains, there’s a lot to learn from the play. She mentions a few good questions the play raises: Are we still doing this to some extent? What’s it like now to be in a relationship? Is it okay to let someone change us so much?
Don’t expect an explicit dialogue on modern feminist talking points, though.
“Great art just asks questions and opens up a dialogue. We obviously have our own views and we’d love to open some minds, but mainly we want to take you from A to B, thinking some thoughts, asking some questions. Maybe about Shakespeare, maybe about music. Take a journey.”
“It’s got synth pop!”
Patrick and Jacki hope that marketing to a hip, younger crowd will attract a new audience to the theatre, which has become somewhat stagnant.
The #wontbetamed tag has popped up around my own Facebook feed, and the faces are familiar—young people I play music with, drink with, am served drinks by, greet on my way between the coffee shop and the library, who encourage me when I’ve had a rough day, who are my friends. There is a clear audience to this marketing, and it’s the emerging art and leisure scene of Ghent—people who might be interested in the theatre if they were aware of the things it provides.
The Bottoms and Topps promo video is also appealing to a younger audience, which features imagined newly weds in a 70’s era game show competing for free tickets to the musical. The promo bears the Alchemy brand, which has been at the forefront of promoting Norfolk’s developing arts district.
But behind the song and dance of promotion is a play that speaks about something young people are interested in: relationships. This conversation is not only important to young, unmarried singles and couples, but it reflects our day-to-day lives and has the potential to draw us in readily.
The Virginia Stage Company’s production of Taming of the Shrew runs from February 27th to March 15th at the Wells Theatre. For more, click here.
Written by Will Huberdeau for Norfolk’s AltDaily on .
Billy Christopher Maupin (or B.C. to anyone who knows him) is a man of the theatre. He is an award winning theatrical director, an accomplished actor and a gifted singer of songs. Like many gifted artists, his artistic inspiration is based upon a personal life that largely resembles a roller coaster. As a single, 35-year-old [...]August 9, 2016
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