'Taming' with a contemporary twist

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" has been a universal favorite for centuries. The Aquila Theatre brings a fresh, contemporary version to George Mason University's Center for the Arts on Sunday that will delight fans of the bard and the play's popular musical version, Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate."

The Aquila Theatre was founded in 1991 in England by Peter Meineck to bring the greatest theatrical works to the greatest number of people. Today it is the professional theater company-in-residence at the New York University Center for Ancient Studies. Its education program serves students in Harlem. Throughout the year, its touring company performs around the world and across this country, reaching 70 cities in every state.

"The Taming of the Shrew" is the first of the company's two shows playing in repertory this season. They return in January with a production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in November, and George Mason University's Center for the Arts in January. The background scenery in both productions is provided by screen projections.

The British cast of six plays multiple roles. Lewis Barfoot is Kate, and James Bellorini is Petruchio. Each will portray a variety of characters in "Cyrano de Bergerac," as well.

Onstage
'The Taming of the Shrew'
Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, 3:15 p.m. pre-performance discussion by company members
Info: $20 to $40; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

By age four, Barfoot was putting on plays for her grandparents when they came to visit for the holidays. Moving to the legitimate stage was a natural progression. Bellorini's passion began at age 16 when he played the lead in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." He was so determined to make the stage his career that he ignored the advice actor Richard Burton gave him to stay away from theater. He promises the audience can look for some wildness and humor in Petruchio, along with a little bit of the craziness exhibited by the lead singer in the British band Protege.

As a nonprofit organization, the Aquila Theatre is supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since its founding, the troupe has performed across the globe, presenting imaginative versions of great classic works. It frequently visits schools and universities to present workshops giving an introduction to physical theater for groups of 30 to 40 students. Company manager John Buxton coordinates the schedule and accompanies the troupe to its various venues.

"Many of the audiences are new to the works, while others have been familiar with the plays for many years," he said. "Actors like to play many roles and watch how the audience responds to each. It's amazing to see how people hesitant about a new work react when they find they are being entertained. If laughter follows, we hope the story has invigorated an interest in reading more. Those who are not strangers to the story will appreciate a new way of presentation and be further intrigued by the music and movement sequences."

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