“Kiss Me, Kate” unites music, theatre


Courtesy of Theatre Simpson

by Belle Ward, Features Editor

The Simpson College music and theatre programs collaborated for the spring musical, “Kiss Me, Kate.”

The musical follows a group of individuals creating and performing in a musical of William Shakespeare’s, “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Senior theatre and music major Morgan Merrill is cast as Lois Lane in the show.

Merrill has played multiple roles in the music and theatre department, and is grateful for a part that challenges her for her final role at Simpson.

“I’ve never had to play a love interest before. I’ve always been the comedian, or like the evil person,” she said, “So it’s a lot of fun being able to be that love interest and really push my boundaries.”

Merrill’s character also plays the role of Bianca in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“I love that my final production here at Simpson is with both of my majors. I love having my opera family and my theatre family combined to make this one giant production,” Merrill said.

The element of a play within a play is shown onstage, and the audience is able to see everything as the cast prepares for the show, both off and onstage.

“You get to see us rehearse and try to get everything to perform for ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’” Merrill said.

For the first audition for “Kiss Me, Kate,” students sang and performed their monologue, which was a shift from the traditional theatre and opera auditions. Afterward, there was a dance call for students to show their ability to follow a routine.

Merrill was surprised to see herself cast as a character who is a dancer.

“Once I saw that this is the role that I got, I went up to Jennifer and I said: ‘Jennifer, I can’t dance. You made a mistake.’ She’s like: ‘I saw you dance, you can dance, it’s not going to be that difficult,’” Merrill said.

Courtesy of Theatre Simpson | Senior Morgan Merrill plays the characters of Lois Lane in “Kiss Me, Kate” and Bianca from the “Taming of the Shrew.” 

Jennifer Nostrala, professor of theatre arts and director of “Kiss Me, Kate” worked with music director Bernard McDonald to choose the spring semester production.

Nostrala chose a theme of love for the show. This inspiration comes from the character Petruchio deciding he wants to marry Katherine, but is doing so for the money. Katherine’s father agrees to this match.

“For me, the play is about the value of love. And that love comes in many forms from romantic love, to love between friends, to the love of creating theatre and building community,” Nostrala said in an email interview.

Three guest consultants came in for “Kiss Me, Kate.”

“Jenn Allton, the fight director, was in briefly to work on the physical fights and some slapstick that happens in the show. Staci Kjellsen has been with us throughout the process choreographing,” said Nostrala. “And our set designer, Adam Crinson arrived from New York on February 7 to begin painting and working on completing the set for the show.”

These guests give students the ability to work with more than Simpson faculty, and it creates a different look for the show.

Courtesy of Theatre Simpson | Senior Katie Wiegand plays the roles of Lilli in “Kiss Me, Kate” and Katherine from “The Taming of the Shrew.” First-year Micah Zimmerman is also performing in the musical. 

Senior music major Katie Wiegand plays the role of Lilli, who performs as Katherine, the character from “The Taming of the Shrew.”

This audition process was more intimidating for Wiegand, as opera productions typically double-cast their main roles, and the students auditioning were informed that this show would only have 25 people in the cast.

Wiegand enjoyed the ability to have the music and theatre department working together for one production.

“Both departments have a lot of strengths that we can play off of to benefit the whole production, instead of just one department,” Wiegand said.

Having both department’s specialties in different areas allows for a stronger production, Wiegand said, which allows the students in each program to learn from the other program.

“This music is much more classically based, and so having an opera kind of focus to that is really helpful because it is pretty complicated music,” Wiegand said.

Wiegand said one particularly challenging element of the production is the comedic moments of the show, as this musical is more of a comedy than most operas.

“There’s a lot of innuendo in this show,” Wiegand said, adding, “Playing off of each other is a huge part of that.”

Wiegand said although the show is older, it is written humorously and has a plot that is still relevant today.

“It’s still set in the ‘40s, so there’s a little bit of that antiquity, but the humor is very much for our age group. And it’s also very genuine, the show itself is able to laugh at itself,” Wiegand said.

The cast will perform “Kiss Me, Kate” at the Blank Performing Arts Center on February 28-March 2 at 7:30 p.m. and March 3 at 1:00 p.m.