What if a woman actually won the presidency? That’s what Lauren Gunderson posits in her play The Taming, and our nation considered last week. While we all know how that turned out for the U.S., the oft-produced playwright invites theatres across America to imagine the possibility by providing theatres around the country a free license to do a staged reading of The Taming on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of the presidential inauguration.
“In 2013 I wrote The Taming, an all-female political farce for Crowded Fire Theatre, to unpack the deep frustration of a divided and obstructionist patriarchy,” Gunderson wrote in a blog post on Playscripts.com, “to laugh with the painful truth about extremism on both sides, to toy with our country’s history and wrestle with its foundational imperfections, and to make manifest a dream of reason and understanding prevailing in America. That feels more necessary now than three years ago.”
Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Gunderson’s play is set at a Miss America pageant where a beauty queen named Katherine has trapped a liberal activist and a Republican senator in a hotel room to help her rewrite the U.S. Constitution. Since its world premiere at Crowded Fire, it’s played at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., Marin Shakespeare Company in San Rafael, Calif., and Circle Theatre in Fort Worth, Tex.
Gunderson now invites independent producers or theatre companies to do a reading of The Taming on Inauguration Day 2017, and she’s waiving the licensing fee. Those interested can read the play for free and request the rights on the Playscripts website. The readings need not be restricted to a theatre, Gunderson points out: They can take place “in a theatre, in a house, on a street. It’s on us. I’m doing a reading that will raise money to benefit the ACLU. Which organization might you choose to help?”
For Gunderson, it’s all in the name of empathy. “I believe that stories well told can accomplish a pretty magical feat: transporting us into the hearts and minds of others,” she says. “Theatre specifically requires us to show up and participate in the story and feel the particular power of congregation as well as catharsis. The communal embrace of theatre was always an ancient way of processing politics, society, and great change. I believe it still is.”