As the curtain rose on rehearsal for Carroll Community College's production of William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," a selection of performers, clad in bell bottoms, platform heels and checkered minidresses came out to "Do the Hustle" under the glow of 14 disco balls.

"Just as Shakespeare intended," director Bill Gillett quipped.

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The play, opening Thursday at the Theater in the Scott Center, updates Shakespeare's classic tale of courtship to the disco scene of the 1970s. Gillett said the cultural change came out of a desire to update the themes of the original story.

In the original play, romantic lead Petruchio enters into a battle of the wills with the titular "shrew," Katherina, a headstrong, nagging young woman. Gillett said the modernization places the storyline into a new historical context which reflects the story being told.

"It's taking place in a time where it's believed that there's this traditional role for women, but it's also the time of the Equal Rights Amendment," Gillett said. "By placing it here, we're putting the story at the cusp of women's liberation and traditional women's roles."

Ben Hopkins, of Westminster, who plays Petruchio in the show, said the play is more about the ways he and Katherina both change to become compatible rather than an active role of taming.

"There's always that fear with this show that it's going to come off as misogynistic," Hopkins said. "I'm the one who sets out to tame the shrew, but he ends up being tamed himself."

Unlike Hopkins, who performed in last year's production of "As You Like It," this is the first Carroll Shakespeare production for Claire Wink, of Westminster, who plays Katherina in the show. She said it's been challenging to capture the realism of the emotions they're trying to portray while still utilizing Shakespeare's original language. To prepare, she said she studied as many productions of "Taming of the Shrew" as she could.

"This character can be played in so many different ways, from being submissive to this really headstrong persona," Wink said. "I've been looking at the actresses who played her, including people like Meryl Streep, just so I can make sure I know what I'm doing."

Each of the Carroll Shakespeare productions directed by Gillett include some modernizing element, be it the pop-star inspired "Romeo and Juliet," or the professional wrestling base to "As You Like It." He said he tries to use any tools possible to help connect audiences to Shakespere's work.

"Shakespeare can withstand the playfulness," Gillett said. "Because his staging was so generic for the Globe, we can add these elements, and it still works because there's this vacancy in the original work."

Gillett said this production is based more on the pop conception of the '70s rather than the look of the real world during that period. The show features the music of '70s and '80s like Rick James' "Super Freak," the Village People's "Macho Man," and The Trammps' "Disco Inferno," as well as groovy outfits and an elaborate disco set with light-up palm trees, glitter curtains and a color-changing booze counter.

"We're kind of divining what it was like based on what we've been told, with Studio 54 and the movie imaginations of ['Saturday Night Fever']," Gillett said. "At its heart, it's less about putting women in their place and more about making fun of the game we all play, and playing with what is acceptable in society and what is not."

If you go:

What: "Taming of the Shrew"

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28; Friday, April 29; and Saturday, April 30. 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1

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Where: Theater in the Scott Center, Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Ave., Westminster

Cost: $10 general admission. $5 seniors older than 65, faculty, staff and students with ID.

For more information: Visit www.carrollcc.edu/Arts-and-Events or call 410-386-8000.

410-857-7890

Twitter.com/Jacob_deNobel

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