Sharisse LeBrun: Starring in Shakespeare

Photo: André Reinders

For many of us, the Shakespeare unit in high school English class was something to be dreaded.  Fast-forward a few years, and here we are at a liberal arts school.  It looks like we've learned to love the Bard.

Third-year English and great books student Sharisse LeBrun is taking her Shakespeare game one step further.  She's starring as the female lead in Theatre St. Thomas' production of The Taming of the Shrew, which runs this week.

"I always feel like it is such a privilege to have the opportunity to play any Shakespeare role," says Sharisse.

In the comedy, Sharisse plays the role of Kate, the titular 'shrew.'  In the past, the role has been played by notable actresses like Elizabeth Taylor in the 1967 film, or for more modern audiences, Julia Stiles in the adaptation 10 Things I Hate About You.

Despite these big-name portrayals, Sharisse says she's limited herself from watching other adaptations.  Instead, she's opting to make this version of Kate her very own.

"Kate is a very strong, independent, smart woman. She does not agree with the way things are run in her hometown of Padua and she makes that very clear to everyone," says Sharisse.

Though she admires her character for her ahead-of-her-time independence, she notes that Kate often "goes about speaking her mind in the wrong way."  Throughout the play, she leans on the character of Petruchio to learn how to control herself, but still get what she wants.

This is Sharisse's second year working with Theatre St. Thomas.  Last year, she was a part of Coronation Voyage directed by Dr. Robin Whitaker (Whitaker is also directing The Taming of the Shrew).  She says her interest in theatre began in middle school, when she began attending Theatre New Brunswick's musical theatre program.

Reading - let alone memorizing - Shakespeare can be a challenge, but Sharisse says it's something she's up for.

"Memorizing Shakespeare lines is actually surprisingly easy compared to memorizing lines for your typical contemporary play," she says.  "It often feels more like memorizing song lyrics than memorizing lines."

Rather, she says, the challenge is bringing a fresh spin to the role.  She notes that many people are familiar with the play, and some go in with their own idea of the character.  She hopes that the audience will be able to see her portrayal of Kate for what it is.

"It's pretty exciting to get to take a role with so much history and make it my own."

'The Taming of the Shrew' runs at the Black Box Theatre through Saturday.