Rubicon Theatre Presents KING LEAR Starring George Ball
Rubicon Theatre presents a timely and trenchant production of Shakespeare's tragedy KING LEAR as the centerpiece of the company's 20th Anniversary Season. Directed by Co-Founder James O'Neil, the production features a 20-member cast led by acclaimed actor and company memberGeorge Ball, who has starred in previous Rubicon productions of All My Sons, Man of La Mancha, and Jacques Brel... (New York, L.A., and international companies of the latter).
According to O'Neil, "KING LEAR is the story of a narcissistic ruler who craves adulation, exiles those who question his authority, and neglects those on the fringes of society." Considered by many to be Shakespeare's greatest masterpiece, KING LEAR is a haunting and epic saga of love, greed, family strife, and civil war. Rubicon's production of KING LEAR begins previews on March 14, 2018 and opens on Saturday evening, March 17 at Rubicon Theatre Company's intimate home, a former historic church located in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District. The opening night post-show party is at Rhumb Line Restaurant at Ventura Harbor. The production continues Wednesdays through Sundays through April 1. For tickets, go to www.rubicontheatre.orgor call 805.667.2900.
Set in ancient Britain, the plot of KING LEAR follows an aging sovereign who announces that he will divide his kingdom among his three daughters in proportion to their professed affection for him. When his youngest daughter Cordelia refuses to flatter her father falsely, Lear becomes irrational and enraged, exiling his beloved child and his longtime friend and advisor, the Earl of Kent, and the kingdom is thrown into a state of confusion. More family drama ensues when Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, convinces his father that his half-brother Edgar intends to murder Gloucester.
Lear's elder daughters Goneril and Regan reveal their true natures and turn on their father; and Lear, his Fool and companions find themselves in a raging, bitter storm. As the monarchy collapses, Lear descends into madness. Lear ultimately comes to understands the folly of his actions, too late to save those who were most loyal to him.
In addition to Ball, the ensemble features Beverly Ward (Broadway/National Tours) and Meghan Andrews(Broadway/Steppenwolf) as Lear's scheming daughters Goneril and Regan. Sylvie Davidson (Lonesome Traveler at Rubicon and Off-Broadway) portrays Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia. Joel Bryant (Moonlight and Magnolias at Rubicon/Shakespeare by the Sea) assays the role of Lear's devoted and stalwart friend Kent; andLouis A. Lortoto (Rubicon's The Tempest/South Coast Rep) comforts, cajoles and pities the king as Lear's Fool.Joseph Fuqua, who has appeared in more than thirty Rubicon productions including the title role in Hamlet, plays the role of Regan's sadistic husband the Duke of Cornwall, and Michael Matthys (The Guthrie/Shakespeare Festival LA) plays Goneril's conflicted spouse the Duke of Albany.
Stage and screen veteran George McDaniel (Broadway/Actors Theatre of Louisville/La Jolla Playhouse) is the long-suffering and confused Earl of Gloucester. New to Rubicon, Jason McBeth (Kingsman Shakespeare) plays Gloucester's legitimate son Edgar. Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper (Lonesome Traveler) returns to Rubicon after two back-to-back roles at South Coast Rep (Once and Shakespeare in Love), playing Gloucester's bastard son Edmund.
Ensemble members include Leah Dalrymple, Dillon Francis, Seryozha La Porte, Caleb Kneip, Zachary Macias,Sally Mueller, Tom Mueller, Trevor Wheetman and Samantha Winters.
"This versatile group of actors will play multiple roles, ranging from visiting dignitaries, to members of the king's cabinet, to soldiers, to attendants," says O'Neil.
"They also improvise the soundscape for what is happening in Lear's mind during the storm. And most importantly, they play the dispossessed and disenfranchised people who have been forgotten by the king in his self-absorbed state. They represent those to whom Lear refers when he comes to understand, too late, that he has 'ta'en too little care of this,'" continues O'Neil.
The production will be set in a "time before time" and a "time out of time," according to O'Neil, with various locales including an ancient stone circle created by Scenic and Lighting Designer Thomas S. Giamario of Giatheatrics. Some aspects of the action will take place on stone ramps in the house connected to the stage, creating an immersive experience for audience members similar to prior productions at Rubicon such as Fiddler on the Roof and Man of La Mancha.
T. Theresa Scarano designed the set dressing and props for the production. Dave Mickey serves as Sound Designer (assisted by Devon Swiger), with Trevor Wheetman as Onstage Sound Coordinator. Costumes are designed by Leanna Schwartz. Stephanie Coltrin is Dramaturge. Jon Stover is Production Coordinator. Erica Christensen is Production Stage Manager, with Dillon Francis as Assistant Stage Manager and Fight Choreographer, and Austin Jiang as Assistant Fight Choreographer.
KING LEAR is sponsored by Jordan Laby. Sponsors of Rubicon's 20th Anniversary Season are BBA, Diane and Peter Goldenring, Janet and Mark L. Goldenson, Sue and Simon Ruddick, and Barbara Meister, to whom the season is dedicated.
Low-priced previews of KING LEAR begin on Wednesday, March 14 at 7:00 p.m., continuing Thursday, March 15, at 7:00 p.m., and Friday, March 16 at 8:00 p.m. Opening night is Saturday, March 17 (St. Patrick's Day) at 7:00 p.m., followed by a party with cast, crew and local dignitaries. Performances continue Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. (a new start time this season), Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $65. Talkbacks follow Wednesday evening performances on March 14, 21 and 28. Discounts are available for students, active military, members of Actors' Equity Association, and groups of 12 or more.
Rubicon Theatre is located at 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001, at the corner of Main and Laurel in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District. The box office is open to the public Noon to 6:00 p.m. Tuesdays throughSaturday, 11:00 to 1:00 p.m. on Sundays during which shows are presented. Tickets are available online 24-hours-a-day at www.rubicontheatre.org. To order by phone, call 805.667.2900.
ABOUT THE CAST
Meghan Andrews (Regan) was last seen at Rubicon in Collected Stories with Susan Clark. Broadway credits include Frost/Nixon (Broadway and National Tour), and Steppenwolf Theatre Company's The Grapes of Wrath. Andrews received a Lucille Lortel Nomination for her work Off-Broadway in Signature Theatre Company's The Trip to Bountiful. Other NY credits include Origin Theatre Company's U.S. Premiere of Clocks and Whistles, and Blessed Unrest's All's Well That Ends Well. Meghan's most recent stage performance was as Kate Middleton inKing Charles III at Pasadena Playhouse. Other L.A. credits include Miracle on South Division Street at The Colony Theatre and The Empty Man at The Blank. Andrews numerous regional credits include The Trip to Bountiful at Goodman Theatre in Chicago; The Spitfire Grill, Words by Ira Gershwin, and Educating Rita at North Coast Rep in San Diego; and Doubt at George Street Playhouse. She has been seen on NBC's "Justified," "Law & Order: C.I.," "Flesh 'n Blood," and others. Film appearances include "The Big Swim," "Drifting" (Universal Pictures), "The Adjustment Bureau," and others.
George Ball (King Lear) starred on and Off-Broadway in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Ball was nominated for an Ovation Award for his portrayal of Joe Keller in Rubicon Theatre's Ovation Award-winning production of All My Sons. Other roles at Rubicon include Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha and leads in She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof. Other stage credits include leading roles in the pre-Broadway production of the musical Cowboy, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Pittsburgh and San Jose C.L.O.), Paint Your Wagon and the original musicals A Long Way to Boston and Silver Dollar (Goodspeed Opera House), Brecht Sacred and Profane (Mark Taper Forum), Vincent the Musical (Las Palmas Theatre), Merry-Go-Round (El Rey Theatre),Heartbeats (Old Globe Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Sacramento Music Circus, and Morris Mechanic Theatre); and Harry Chapin, Lies And Legends (Apollo Theatre, Chicago, Pasadena Playhouse, and Canon Theatre) for which he received Drama-Logue and L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards. Ball received a Robbie Award for his role in Jacques Brel... at Rubicon Theatre. Other stage roles include leads in Camelot, Oliver!, I Do!, I Do!, Damn Yankees, Most Happy Fella (for Reprise, L.A.), 1776, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd. He received both a Rep and Robbie Award for the latter, which was voted one of the top ten theatrical events of the year in theL.A. Times. Ball also starred as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha for Reprise L.A. Television roles include guest-starring and recurring roles on "Judging Amy," "Cheers," and "The David Letterman Show."
Joel Bryant (Earl of Kent) makes his second appearance at Rubicon with King Lear, after playing Ben Hecht inMoonlight and Magnolias (Broadway World nominee) two seasons ago. Originally from Albuquerque, Bryant now lives in L.A., but his career has literally taken him around the world. He's played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Texas Shakespeare Festival, been twice nominated for Desert Theatre League Awards for Later Life andFrankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Coachella Valley Rep), and appeared in many other roles on many stages in-between. Bryant's TV, streaming and film credits include "Heartbreak Kid," "Monk," "LA Macabre," and "You Are Nothing" (Winner: Best Actor, First Glance Film Fest). Bryant is in demand as a live host for events from Singapore to Cancun, Bali to Bakersfield; and emceed the Main Stage at the last two Super Bowl functions. He also frequently appears as a standup comic at clubs, corporate functions and private functions. Bryant just returned from two weeks entertaining the troops in Afghanistan.
LEAH DALRYMPLE (Ensemble) makes her Rubicon debut in King Lear. Recent credits include Calpurnia U/S inJulius Caesar, Katharine in Love's Labour's Lost, Queen Isabel in Henry V, and Helena U/S in A Midsummer Night's Dream for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company; Jenny in Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play and Chaperone inThe Drowsy Chaperone at California Lutheran University; Fran Kubelik in Promises, Promises and Lucy in Draculaat Moorpark College; and Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street at Young Artists Ensemble.
Sylvie Davidson (Cordelia) was previously seen at Rubicon in the American Premiere of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the World Premiere of Lonesome Traveler. A graduate of Knox College, she most recently appeared as Abigail Williams in ACT Theatre's The Crucible. In 2017, Davidson originated roles in two other World Premiere productions: Candice in Book-It Repertory Theatre's adaptation of Welcome to Braggsville and Inez in ALLIANCE THEATRE's country musical Troubadour. Other regional appearances include productions at Village Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, Island Stage Left, and New Century Theatre Company. She performed Off-Broadway at NY's 59E59 Theatre as a member of the cast of Lonesome Traveler. A singer/songwriter as well as an actor, Davidson divides her time between Nashville and the West Coast.
Dillon Francis (Ensemble/Assistant Stage Manager) has appeared in Rubicon mainstage productions of Our Town, Defying Gravity, The Diary of Anne Frank, and the American Premiere of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He also appeared in many summer youth programs and Shakespeare intensives, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth among his favorites. Francis graduated from UCSB with a B.F.A. in Theatre. He has since expanded his acting repertoire to include appearances in four Footworks Ballet Company productions and appeared as an extra in the film "Easy A."
Joseph Fuqua (Duke of Cornwall, Regan's Husband) recently appeared in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Incognito at Rubicon. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, his Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include Brighton Beach Memoirs and 110 in the Shade at Lincoln Center. Regionally, Fuqua has appeared as Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alexei in A Month in the Country at Arena Stage, Iago in Othello for Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, Louis in Angels in America at Dallas Theatre Center, and Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opposite Mary Jo Catlett at Ensemble Theatre. On television, Joseph guest starred in "The X-Files," "The Profiler," "Brooklyn South," "The Pretender," "Chicago Hope," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Becker," and the pilot "Second Nature." Film credits include "Ed's Next Move," "David Searching," "Heyday," and J.E.B. Stuart in "Gettysburg" opposite Martin Sheen, a role he reprised in the film "Gods and Generals." In 2000, Fuqua joined Rubicon Theatre as the first company member. His roles with the company include the title role in Hamlet (Indy Award), The Boys Next Door (Indy Award), The Rainmaker (Robby Award and Rep Award), All My Sons (Ovation Award), Bruce Wagner in Conviction, Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, and Marshal Johnson in the American Premiere of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
CALEB KNEIP (Ensemble) returns to Rubicon stage having last appeared as Sir Toby Belch in in the 2015 Fearless Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. Kneip since graduated from UC San Diego's Theatre program under the acting mentorship of Kim Rubinstein (Long Wharf Theatre, Steppenwolf), and performed in professional productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet (as Friar Laurence).
SERYOZHA LA PORTE (Ensemble) is an actor, improviser, and musician. La Porte studied Shakespeare and musical theatre at Rubicon while attending Ventura College, where he took classes in dramatic arts and opera. Later, he was accepted into the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) Professional Acting Program. Rubicon credits include Belle's Husband/Ghost of Christmas Future in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone, Edmund in King Lear, and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing(also at PCPA). He has performed at PCPA in the title role in Richard II and as Murderer in Richard III. Other credits include Paolo in A Witless Rogue (Great American Melodrama) and Fabrizio in Light in the Piazza at Ventura College.
LOUIS A. LOTORTO (Fool) returns to Rubicon having appeared as Ariel in The Tempest. L.A. appearances include the Ahmanson Theatre in the Royal National Theatre touring production of An Enemy of the People with Sir Ian McKellen; six seasons with A Noise Within (earning an Ovation Nomination for his portrayal of Camille in A Flea in Her Ear); and eight shows with The Colony Theatre Company, garnering an award for his portrayal of Tom in The Glass Menagerie. Regional theatre credits include The Miser, Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Orphans at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Richard II, Henry V, and The Tempest (Helen Hayes Award nominee for Ariel) at Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C.; three seasons with the California Shakespeare Festival; The Revenger's Tragedy at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; the World Premiere of Steven Dietz' Trust at ACT in Seattle; The Normal Heart and Destiny of Me at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland (Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Actor); Charlie in The Foreigner at San Jose Repertory Theatre; The 39 Steps at Ensemble Theatre Company in Santa Barbara; and Amadeus, One Man, Two Guvnors, Taking Steps, Hamlet, and Shakespeare in Love at South Coast Repertory Theatre.
JASON McBETH (Edgar, Gloucester's Son) was recently seen as Charlie Morris in Rogue Machine Theatre's production of Les Blancs (Ovation nominee, Best Production, Intimate Theatre) and in the title role in Richard IIIfor Kingsmen Shakespeare Company. Other regional theatre credits include Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, Richard III, King Henry VI, Part I, Dr. Faustus, and Napoli Millionaria at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. TV credits include NBC's "Grimm" and Fox's "Rake" starring Greg Kinnear. McBeth is also the writer and producer of the online comedy sketch series "Respect the Deck" on YouTube.
George McDaniel (Earl of Gloucester) is making his first appearance at Rubicon Theatre. He appeared on Broadway in Big River, and toured nationally with Annie Get Your Gun, Big River, Showboat, Ragtime and White Christmas. McDaniel's Off-Broadway credits include Biography at Pearl Theatre Company, and Perfect Crime at Snapple Theater Center. Regional theatre credits include A Wonderful Life at Goodspeed Musicals; How to Succeed in Business...at Flat Rock Playhouse; Big River, Bandido, and Putting it Together at the Mark Taper Forum; Oliver! at Deaf West Theatre (Ovation nomination); My Fair Lady at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Cleveland Playhouse, Virginia Stage, and Austin Musical Theatre (Austin Critics Awards' Best Actor); Man of La Mancha at SBCLO (Best Actor); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Shout Up a Morning and His Girl Friday at La Jolla Playhouse; and Cyrano de Bergerac, Macbeth, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and TheDevil's Disciple at the Ahmanson Theatre. McDaniel's film and TV credits include "This is Spinal Tap," "The Intern," "The Good Wife," "The West Wing," "ER," contract player on "Days of Our Lives," recurring role on "All My Children," and all the "Law & Order" franchises.
ZACHARY MACIAS (Ensemble) is making his debut performance at Rubicon in King Lear. He recently graduated from UCSB with a B.F.A. in Theatre and a B.A. in Political Science. Past shows include Much Ado About Nothing,The Importance of Being Earnest, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play.
Michael Matthys (Duke of Albany, Goneril's Husband) is a veteran of the stage, having appeared in over 100 plays. His career began at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis where he was part of The Acting Company under Garland Wright, starring as Treplev in Garland's production of The Seagull. Since moving to L.A., Matthys has appeared at the Ahmanson, Laguna Playhouse, A Noise Within, Native Voices, LATC, and Shakespeare Festival LA, where he played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. He has appeared in a number of feature films including "Nightwatch," "Destiny Turns on the Radio," "Full Blast," and "BASEketball"; and the soon-to-be-released "Home Sweet Deadly Home" and "Stan the Man," in which he plays Russian mafia henchman Dimitri. Shakespearean roles include Angelo, Romeo, Mercutio, Aufidius, Toby Belch, Orsino, Valentine, Jacques, Humphrey of Gloucester, and Oberon. On TV, Matthys is best known for his role as Dr. Kent on "Grey's Anatomy."
Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper (Edmund) has appeared Off-Broadway in Rothschild and Sons, Lonesome Traveler, and Julius Caesar. Other NYC credits include SubUrbia, The Female Terrorists Project, Iolanthe, Slavs!, and Three Days of Rain. Regionally, Mongiardo-Coooper has been seen in Shakespeare in Love, Once, LuckyDuck, The Borrowers, and Edward Tulane at South Coast Rep; A Midsummer Night's Dream (SBCCLO); Words By(San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Nomination); Side by Side by Sondheim, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush, Laughter On the 23rd Floor, and Of Mice and Men at North Coast Rep; Side Show at La Jolla Playhouse; Our Lady of 121st St.; and Ferdinand the Bull. Other L.A. theatre credits include the World Premiere of Behind the Gates, Slaughterhouse Five, and Merchant of Venice. TV credits include "Fuller House"(Netflix/WB), "Superstore" (NBC Universal), and "Casual" (HULU). Mongiardo-Cooper attended LaGuardia High School and received his B.F.A. at NYU.
SALLY MUELLER (Ensemble) last appeared at Rubicon in Our Town. She was a co-director (with Jean Marshall) of Hundred Hats children's theatre. Mueller also taught drama in after-school programs at a variety of schools in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. She performed as a mime and clown and was a member of Le Petit Cirque.
TOM MUELLER (Oswald, Goneril's Steward/Improv Director) is an improviser, an actor, and a bardolator. In 1989, he co-founded The Ventura Improv Company, where he is the current Director Emeritus, and is also the director of the Alcazar Improv Players. Mueller has, of late, mainly performed in unscripted shows, but he has appeared at Rubicon in several plays, including Gem of the Ocean, The Boys Next Door, Art, and Our Town.
Beverly Ward (Goneril) was last seen at Rubicon along with her husband Kirby Ward in Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance as part of the Goldenson Broadway Concert Series. She also co-directed Return to the Forbidden Planetwith Kirby, and appeared as Ilona in She Loves Me under his direction. Ward has performed on Broadway inAnastasia and Epic Proportions; and appeared Off-Broadway in A Child's Christmas in Wales. In London, she was seen in Crazy for You. Ward has also appeared in numerous National Tours, including Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Anne Miller, Billy Elliot (Mum), Crazy For You (Polly - Helen Hayes Award nomination), and Hal Prince's Show Boat (Ellie May Chipley). Regionally, she has appeared as Elaine Navazio/Bobbi Michelle/Jeanette Fischer in Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Agnes in I Do! I Do!, Trina in Falsettos, Roxie Hart inChicago, Shelby in The Spitfire Grill, Maria in The Sound of Music, and Edythe Herbert in My One and Only.
Trevor Wheetman (Ensemble/Onstage Sound Coordinator) returns to Rubicon, having previously appeared inCharles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Other Rubicon credits include The Folk-Rock Project as part of the Music for Changing Times Festival last year, Return to the Forbidden Planet, the American Premiere of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (for which he also wrote and performed original music), and the follow-up concert "Songs from the West and Beyond" co-starring his wife Sylvie Davidson whom he met in Lonesome Traveler. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Wheetman has brought his musicianship to the theatre as a Music Director (Lonesome Traveler at The Laguna Playhouse and Off-Broadway), performer (Fire on the Mountain at Seattle Rep, Ain't Nothin' But the Blues at Portland Center Stage and Jesus' Son at Book-It Repertory Theatre), and composer (The Glass Project at Cornish College of the Arts). His original works have also appeared on film and television. Most recently, he composed and performed the score for the short film "Drift."
SAMANTHA WINTERS (Ensemble) previously appeared at Rubicon as Meg Kincaid in the Goldenson Broadway Musical Concert Series production of Merrily We Roll Along, returning in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. A Ventura native, Winters has also appeared as Elaine Harper in the High Street Arts Center production of Arsenic and Old Lace; in The Rocky Horror Show with Out of the Box Theatre Company; and in Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, Measure for Measure, Richard III, Henry V and A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company. Other favorite credits include Wendla Bergman in Spring Awakening, Mabel Stanley inThe Pirates of Penzance, and Princess Leia Organa in William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope.
ABOUT THE PHYSICAL PRODUCTION
Scenic and Lighting Designer Giamario has create a physical environment that sets the play in a "time before time," and a "time out of time," with much of the action takes place in and around a stone circle.
"Stone circles were prevalent throughout the Neolithic world," says O'Neil, "with thousands of ruins still in existence today (Stonehenge, for example)."
"We have set the play after the Stone Age," continues O'Neil, "perhaps at a moment between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The stone circle represents, even at the time of our play, a bygone era. Though still in use for religious rites and official gatherings, it suggests that Lear's time has passed - that his power must be surrendered to newer and more effective modes ('younger strengths,' as Lear himself puts it). Lear has become calcified or set in his ways (set in stone) and the world must move on. Lear recognizes this and at the same time has psychological difficulty in accepting it, setting up the conflict in the play."
MORE ABOUT THE ROCK PEOPLE
Ensemble members portray a chorus of rock people. They are the people of the land, the homeless, hungry, disenfranchised people that Lear, Edgar, Fool and Kent encounter. "They are the real 'Poor Tom's,' of the world," says O'Neil. Edgar disguises himself as one of them in order to avoid capture as the civil wars begin. The "people of the rocks," living out of doors and in the elements, represent those whom Lear refers to when he says "O, I have ta'en too little care of this." In addition, they are "out of time" in certain ways. They seem at times to have, as the Fool does, a connection to a world beyond our own, or, at other times to nature itself. One example of this is their direct participation in creating the storm which begins at the end of Act II, Sc. IV.
THE PLAYS RELEVANCE TO MODERN AUDIENCES
"There are parallels between the action of the play and current events," observes O'Neil. "We certainly have a leader now who is self-absorbed, and who is often more concerned about himself than those for whom he is responsible. "In the play, we see the aftermath of the extremes of this kind of behavior. As the Fool predicts, we are in a time when our world "shall come to great confusion."
"It is always left to new generations to continue to make a better world," says O'Neil. We must leave the mistakes and cruelties of the past behind. And at the same time, we must learn from our forbearers and honor their virtues and contributions in proper ways. The arc of King Lear embraces this idea."
Shakespeare's classic tragedy speaks to four centuries of artists and audiences throughout the world, whether produced simply on a spare stage, with dramatic lighting and wild special effects, or on an elaborate set as a pageant; set BC, AD, or in a contemporary nursing home; played by great tragedians or comics of different genders and varying ages.
Most scholars agree that King Lear was likely first performed before his Majesty, King James (I of England and VI of Scotland) in December of 1606. The 1608 Quarto edition of the play confirms this, stating that the play had previously been performed as part of holiday festivities at Whitehall.
The 1608 edition was performed for the public at The Globe on Bankside in London, a tall circular half-timbered amphitheater with various levels of tiered seating, including exclusive box seats adjacent to and above the stage where the players could be heard well. (Today we would regard these seats as having poor sightlines, but at the time the focus was on the actors and the words being spoken.) On the first level, the "groundlings" stood or sat to listen to the play in the area surrounding the apron.
The play was presented on a mostly empty stage with a framework for many entrances and exits so that the play could move fluidly from one scene to the next.
Shakespeare wrote the part of Lear for leading tragedian Richard Burbage, an actor known for his extraordinary, versatile gifts - his superb vocal technique (necessary to delivering long speeches of blank verse), his ability to express high emotions, and his physical stamina. Burbage was praised for his artistry in this role, particularly, in an epitaph written at the time of his death. As was the custom, the other actors in the King's Company were all men, with Lear's daughters played by boys. Doubling was common practice in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, and it is speculated that Cordelia and the Fool were played by the same actor. Both are beloved by Lear despite (or perhaps because of) their commitment to the truth, and Lear appears to confuse them in death at the end of the play.
From 1681 to 1838, the only known productions of King Lear were adapted and devised by the cheeky Irish poet Nahum Tate, who described Shakespeare's original as, "a heap of jewels unstrung and unpolished."
Tate eliminated the role of the Fool and created a thwarted love interest between Cordelia and Edgar, who came together at the end of the play. The evil characters failed and the good triumphed. Lear and Gloucester lived to a ripe old age under the benevolent rule of their children.
David Garrick starred in this version in the eighteenth century, winning praise for the pathos of his presentation of the outcast father. Garrick first played the role in modern dress; changing the setting to Ancient Britain in later years. This became the setting for the play until the more daring productions of the mid-20th century.
In 1838, William Charles Macready trusted Shakespeare over Tate and returned to the original, albeit shortened text. Macready set the play in and around massive stone circles, much like you will see in this performance. He restored the character of the Fool after an absence of over 150 years, which was played by a young actress named Priscilla Horton.
Henry Irving later presented the knights attending Lear as long-haired Vikings dwelling among ruins from the decayed Roman Empire.
In the nineteenth century, audiences were spared the distress of Gloucester being blinded. Victorian audiences found their satisfaction in painstakingly recreated and elaborately picturesque visions of Ancient Britain and in the thrilling effects of storms and battles. As an example, Charles Kean's 1858 production chose AD 800 as the date for Lear's reign. Massive sections of text were sacrificed in order to allow for complicated scene changes needed in order to create "authentic" historical recreations (think Pageant of the Masters).
John Gielgud is the actor most associated with King Lear in the twentieth century. He both directed and played the title role throughout his long career, first performing it in 1931 at the age of 27, concluding with a Renaissance Theatre Company radio production in 1994 at the age of 90. His performance at the Old Vic, directed by Harley Granville Barker and Lewis Casson in 1940, was his most significant and influential. Barker's prolific writings on the works of Shakespeare have been a great influence and inspiration for our work on the play.
In the 1940s, Donald Wolfit toured the provinces in a notable production of Lear. Laurence Olivier took on the role in 1946 at the Old Vic, directing the production himself, with Alec Guinness as the Fool. Many years later, in 1983, Olivier, frail but resilient after a serious illness, headed the cast in a television production directed by Michael Elliott.
Brian Cox made a comic entrance as Lear in a 1990 production at the Royal National Theatre directed by Deborah Warner. Sporting a red nose and trailing streamers behind him, he careened in on a wheelchair, a Lear intent on joyfully celebrating his 80th birthday. The opening was a stark contrast to the later scene when Lear awakens after wandering on the heath to find himself in a wheelchair with Cordelia at last by his side.
Helena Kaut-Howson directed a highly praised production of King Lear featuring Kathryn Hunter as Lear at the Leicester Haymarket in 1997. The production opened and closed in a dilapidated nursing home, with the plot a hallucination experienced by a dying patient. Ian Holm won praise for his own interpretation of Lear in Richard Eyre's studio production for the Royal National Theatre that same year.
In 2012, Timothy Crouch directed an energetic, stripped down production for younger audiences that toured England and played at the Park Avenue Armory in New York.
The Internet Broadway Database lists 19 Broadway productions, the first in 1754 at the Nassau Street Theatre with "Mr. Malone" as Lear; the last in 2004, a Lincoln Center transfer of the Jonathan Miller-helmed Stratford Festival production starring Christopher Plummer.
Over the years, there have been innumerable productions at Shakespeare Festivals and regional theatres in England, the U.S. and internationally.
Peter Brook staged a version of King Lear for live television starring Orson Welles in 1953. Grigori Kozintsev directed a moving film version of King Lear in 1970, in a translation by Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, best known for "Dr. Zhivago." A year later, Brook mounted a stylized film based on his own 1962 Stratford production, with Paul Scofield in the title role. Michael Hordern played Lear in the 1992 BBC series of Shakespeare's plays. Its director, Jonathan Miller, chose a dark and austere Jacobean setting for his production.
King Lear has also served as the basis for numerous film adaptations, among them "Ran" (Japanese for chaos or turmoil) by Akira Kurosawa and A Thousand Acres, the 1997 American drama directed by Joselyn Morehouse (based on the novel by Jane Smiley), which starred Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Robards.
For more information about King Lear, or to purchase tickets, go to www.rubicontheatre.org. Or call805.667.2900.