Strange to tell, there are spanking enthusiasts in the world who don’t really enjoy Kiss Me Kate.
Not even when the spanking entails…
Really? What’s not to like?
The answer is that some people simply don’t care for spanking in period costume: they like the immediacy of contemporary clothing, or at least something recognizably recent. What they need is a different kind of Kiss Me Kate production, one that’s staging its version of The Taming of the Shrew in a different time period. Maybe like this Wild West one from Morningside College, Iowa, in 1990:
Or, if only full modern dress will do, this one from Key West, Florida, in 2012, with Susan Powell as Lilli:
Or how about Andreas Lichtenberger spanking Ann Mandrella in the 2011 production at the summer festival in Kittsee, Austria?
But I’m guessing what they’d really enjoy would be a Kiss Me Kate like this one from East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania:
The snag there is that the actors aren’t performing: they’re rehearsing.
It is a fact that, through most of the rehearsal process, actors wear their own clothes. So let a photographer into the rehearsal room, and you’re going to get pictures of a Kiss Me Kate spanking in contemporary dress. ‘Contemporary’, of course, has a very flexible meaning when you’re dealing with a play whose stage history goes back more than half a century…
It is especially pleasing when the contemporary clothing is like that worn by future Broadway star Patti Cohenour when she was spanked during rehearsals for her high school production of Kiss Me Kate in 1970:
But it is also a fact that, as opening night approaches, many actresses will start to wear longer skirts, to give themselves the feel of their eventual stage costume.
But not always. In 2013, the amateur production by Banbury Operatic Society got as far as the ‘tech’ – the technical rehearsal for lighting and sound – and still had Lilli/Kate in her own clothes.
So even if Kiss Me Kate usually looks like this on stage…
… you can be reasonably sure that it also usually looks like this in rehearsal.
(Those are both the 2013 production by the Lyric Musical Society of Aberdeen.)
For a fuller comparison, let’s take the 2008 production at the City Theatre of Independence, Kansas, starring Brad Wright and Marcie Ramirez:
Here they are, working onstage at a late stage of rehearsals. Notice how the set is still being built around them.
And in costume, with the set finished but not yet painted:
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that there were actually three different versions of the spanking in that production. The point bears repeating, with reference to the 2005 amateur production at Devizes, England. Here’s a rehearsal:
In costume for the dress rehearsal:
And posing for a press publicity shot:
And they wear something different each time. My point is the obvious one that actors don’t always sport their actual stage costumes for the publicity photographs, perhaps to save wear and tear, or perhaps because the final costumes may not yet be ready at the time of the photocall. And on occasion, that means they may not wear costumes at all. (No, I don’t mean they do it in the nude!)
Let’s look at an off-the-wall example featuring the original Broadway Fred, Alfred Drake. It’s a publicity shot, but not strictly for Kiss Me Kate. In 1961, he starred in the television variety show The Bell Telephone Hour, and in the March 17 edition, the guest star was Patrice Munsel, and the central theme was Kiss Me Kate. The publicists decided that the best way to advertise the program was:
But that bears no relation to the show itself, in which Patrice wore an ‘hourglass’ black dress – think Morticia Addams with a bouffant – and, most importantly and regrettably, did not get spanked, because the whole thing was a showcase for Cole Porter’s songs, with none of the surrounding action.
And from time to time something similar happens in mainline Kiss Me Kate productions: there are no period costumes available, so the actors make the best of it and pose for the photographer in their own clothes. Step forward, Patrick Tucker and Rachel Sherlock of the Chelmsford Amateur Operatic Society!
And when you also want to feature the spanking on the poster, but have only a modern-dress rehearsal shot to work with, the result will be something like this, from Pennsylvania in 2006:
Let’s hope nobody went to the show hoping in vain for a non-period spanking scene!