Visit the Folger Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew this spring, and you will find that art indeed imitates life. Leads Cody Nickell and Kate Eastwood Norris, both popular actors in DC who also happen to be married, portray Shakespeare's battling lovers Kate and Petruchio, eventually united in wedlock. Norris says there's even more to the casting than meets the eye.
"In a sense, I was tamed when I met Cody," she says. "I never wanted to do the things that girls have to do, but with him, I lost all my anger. He quiets me, and I enliven him."
Director Aaron Posner, who attended their wedding (planned during a production of Macbeth), has cast them in numerous productions. He had Nickell and Norris in mind from the outset because he deems them excellent actors, but he was also interested in how their relationship would inform their roles. Nickell and Norris first met—and first worked with Posner—in the summer of 2006 at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, where they played Rosalind and Orlando in As You Like It.
"Sometimes in the process of casting, you accidentally get it more right than you meant to," he laughs. "We want to see why and how the characters connect, but unbeknownst to me at the time, other things were happening."
Nickell is dark-haired and gentle, Norris blonde and all high-strung energy. But their story is strikingly similar to that of Kate and Petruchio. "They blaze their own trail; that's what Kate and I do," Nickell describes. "We were pretty clear in who we were." The couple admits this is not easy. The more successful they are as actors, the more time they spend apart. Nickell recalls a 46-hour New Year's break when he traveled across the country to spend 29 of them with Norris—hence the appeal of Folger's Shrew, which offers around-the-clock togetherness. While they are looking forward to spending springtime in DC canoeing on the Potomac and seeing friends and family (Norris's parents live in Northern Virginia), they will have two rooms in the Folger's actor housing for those moments when they need some time alone.
The two agree that Kate and Petruchio's first encounter is a favorite scene, along with the memorable "sun and moon" scene, when the fictional couple discovers they can be a team. "they can make the rules; that's what happened with kate and me," he says. "Kate and Petruchio finally look at each other. The idea that love and gender roles are a certain thing is shattered in this moment, and it opens up the world for them." Taming of the Shrew will run may 1 to June 10 at the Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE, 202-544-7077