Kiss Me Kate: Seeing More of Miss Vanessi

Once upon a time, Kiss Me Kate spankings tended to look like this, if they were any good:

Skirt Down

And many of them still do. But some are starting to look more like this:

2012

It’s interesting to look at the history of Kiss Me Kate and see just how far back this tendency goes. Raised skirt scenes are still in the minority among productions, though there are more than you might think. So I’ve been taking a look through my KMK collection to see how they stack up, and to post some examples.

Disclaimer: a few of these shots will be new to the online spanking community, but many will already be familiar; some of them I found independently, but some of them I ‘found’ because someone else had found them already. Kudos to all concerned. On the other hand, some that you may well have seen before are presented here in higher quality than has been hitherto available.

Second disclaimer: this is all about Kiss Me Kate and not The Taming of the Shrew – an important distinction because one has a spanking scene written into the script and the other only as a stage tradition. As it happens I do also know of two raised skirt Shrew spankings, plus one set in the 1960s where the miniskirted Kate’s pink panties were sometimes visible as she was spanked. But they are not my concern here…

I would say there are three distinct categories of raised skirt scene. The first is where the skirt is raised and the spanking is administered on a petticoat or underskirt. I have seven examples of this, and it is the method with the longest history in KMK productions: it was introduced in the musical’s original production in Sweden back in 1951.

I have to say it’s not an approach I really understand, and I don’t think that’s only because I would prefer to see some panties. Practically speaking, it must be a lot more difficult to separate the different layers of skirt than to whisk the whole lot up in one go. And surely it’s counterintuitive to raise Lilli’s skirt to spank her if you’re then going to administer the spanking on, in effect, another skirt.

Petticoat 2

But at least the outcome is still humiliating, with some pleasing panic in these examples!

Petticoat 3

My second category is where the skirt and petticoats are raised and the spanking is administered on period bloomers. The earliest case I’ve seen is in the artwork on the cover of a playbill from Salt City Playhouse, Syracuse NY, from 1970:

KMK 1970 Salt City

I don’t know whether the Salt City Lilli, Cynthia Lake, got spanked with her skirt up in the production itself: the picture is attractive but it’s also stylized, so it doesn’t necessarily represent a true ‘moment’ in the show. Bloomers spankings seem to have really got started with the 1999 Michael Blakemore revival, with first Marin Mazzie as Lilli…

Mazzie portMazzie 1

… followed by Carolee Carmello …

Carmello prtCarmelloCarmello2

… and lastly the – for my taste – very much nicer Rachel York:

Rachel York portRachel York

However, it’s worth adding that even then the touring version of the show, with Emily Herring as Lilli, left her skirt down, presumably to avoid outraging the more conservative towns on the itinerary.

Emily HerringTouring

I’ve got 40 KMK ‘bloomers’ spankings on file: they are by far the most common type where the skirt is raised. Some of them are very appealing:

Bloomers White 2Bloomers White 1aBloomers White 3Bloomers white 4Bloomers White 5a

But they can be terribly disappointing if the costume designer’s been lazy, and hasn’t taken the trouble to make a proper undergarment. If it’s a letdown to see a skirt raised for a petticoat spanking, it’s not much better if Lilli is effectively wearing long trousers:

Bloomers Pants 1

But long pantalets can still be quite sexy if they’re obviously underwear:

Bloomers Long

And a good pose and good acting will always make up for deficiencies in the cut of the garment:

Good pose poor cut

You can make Lilli’s bloomers tight:

Bloomers white tight 2Bloomers White Tight

You can make them short:

Bloomers Short

You can make them different colors:

Bloomers PinkBloomers patternBloomers Red 1Bloomers Red 2

(I’ve seen black as well as pink and red, but the photos aren’t as good.)

Theatrically speaking, there are pros and cons to doing the scene with the skirt raised. The actress playing Lilli may not appreciate it if the opportunity for her to act during the spanking is limited to her bottom half:

Hazard

On the other hand, it may give her something to be glad of. Look at this picture of a recent KMK spanking:

Padding

The point of a skirt-up spanking is to reduce the number of layers through which the spanking is administered, but here the Fred/Petruchio actor has lifted Lilli’s skirt and petticoats so that they bunch up around the actress’s bottom, giving her additional layers of protection and so enabling him to spank her more vigorously without hurting her (much). Fair enough from an acting point of view (let’s not have any pseudo-moralizing to the effect that actresses should be willing to be spanked for real in such scenes), but a bit disappointing for those who like to see actual hand to bloomer contact…

… but with that in mind, the best thing about a raised skirt spanking on bloomers like this one…

Performance

… is imagining what happened to the actress in rehearsals when certain parts of her costume weren’t yet ready…

Rehearsal 1

Rehearsal 2

And that brings me to my third category. Lilli Vanessi, the character in the play, is herself an actress. And whatever period costume an actress may wear in any production, underneath it she is going to be wearing her own modern underwear. Here’s Lilli, just spanked, in bloomers…

Lilli Underwear

… but, if you look carefully, wearing modern white panties, garter belt and stockings underneath.

To reinforce the point, here’s the cast of a 2006 production.

bloomers 2006

Beware the hand!

I repeat: whatever an actress will be wearing as her stage costume, she will have her own modern underwear beneath it. Let’s take a discreet peek into a couple KMK dressing rooms to prove it:

Dressing room

2007 KMK dressing room

And the bloomers that are so often revealed in KMK spanking scenes are part of Lilli’s stage costume: they are Kate’s bloomers, not Lilli’s, so they are expected to be seen during the show anyway. But not all KMK costumes include period underwear:

Underwear 1Underwear 2underwear 3

So the third category is when Lilli’s skirt is raised and she is spanked on her own contemporary panties – the ultimate humiliation, at least within the bounds of mainstream!

This is the rarest type of raised skirt spanking, but it goes back a long way, as far as the publicity artwork for the 1953 movie. This was interestingly varied for the different territories. The US and Britain got the most familiar version…

kiss_me_kate_logo

… which is still used by lazy or less imaginative amateur companies in promoting their own productions today.

PublicityPublicity amateur

But in Belgium, Lilli’s skirt is raised and she is spanked on a diaphanous petticoat with black panties underneath:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No petticoat in France and Italy, which were loose red panty territories…

French

… whereas Denmark preferred tight white…

German

… and those crazy Mexicans went for tight and red…

Mexico

But it took a very long time for this to transfer to the stage. The 2002 Frankfurt production with Petra Constanza as Lilli offered this publicity shot…

Panties German publicity

… which didn’t reflect what actually happened on stage any more than the racier versions of the 1953 artwork told audiences the truth about the movie.

But by then there had already been a breakthrough by an amateur operatic company in England:

Boyshorts (Shenfield)

That’s the Shenfield Operatic Society in Essex, in their 2002 production. Unfortunately I don’t know who is playing the role of Lilli, but my guess is that they intended to do the revised ‘Blakemore’ version faithfully but tried to make a saving on the costume budget by using modern white ‘boyshort’ panties instead of period bloomers. The same approach was taken by the Haywards Heath Operatic Society, also in Essex, in 2006, except that these were a more girly pair of ‘boyshorts’:

Boyshorts HHOS

In case you’re wondering, she’s also rather pretty at the other end…

But I know of only one KMK production where they followed the logic through completely. It was from Amish Acres, Indiana, where it ran for seven weeks in the fall of 2008, and starred company regular Amber Burgess as Lilli. Here she is with Matthew Sean Callahan as Fred.

Amber with petruchio

Amber with Petruchio 2

And here she is in costume for the first act and the all-important ‘fight scene’:

Amber 1Amber 2Amber 3

And since this is Kiss Me Kate, you know what’s going to happen to her:

Amber in danger 1

If they do it properly it won’t be comfortable:

amber in danger 2

But was anybody really expecting to see this?

Panties Amish Acres 2008

Hats off to Amber Burgess for the best ever KMK spanking scene!

What I like about the idea of Lilli being spanked on her own modern bikini panties, apart from the obvious direct appeal to my own preferences, is that it makes the scene more sophisticated. Fred and Lilli both break stage protocol with their behavior in this scene, Lilli by acting up and Fred by spanking her for it: you can be sure they’ll both feature prominently in the stage manager’s daily report!

They are putting on a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew which (unlike KMK itself) doesn’t have a scripted spanking scene, so Fred is putting in business that shouldn’t be there. In most versions of the scene, he does it by using the opportunities that are already there in the play: if they were doing Hedda Gabler it would be a real theatrical sin for the leading man to break out of role and spank the leading lady, but no audience member is going to think twice about it happening in Shrew. But by getting so carried away that he lifts her skirt and breaks the illusion of the period costume by exposing the actress’s modern panties, he puts himself just as far in the wrong professionally as Lilli was to begin with. And that arguably makes the scene more balanced and more dramatically interesting – and so makes Kiss Me Kate a better play. They should do it more often!

4 thoughts on “Kiss Me Kate: Seeing More of Miss Vanessi

  1. Torgo25 says:

    Of the two tight bloomers photos, who is the actress playing Kate in the second one? I know the first one is Elizabeth Stanley.

    Like

    • Harry says:

      It’s the 2006 production by the Saskatoon Summer Players, and the actress is Amanda Stephenson. If you want a closer look at her tight bloomers, here you are:

      Like

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