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Six Women Tackle KING LEAR in New Bedlam Theatre Bristol Riverside Production

Bristol Riverside Theatre continues its 33rd anniversary season by partnering with the renowned Bedlam Theatre, out of New York City, to present a modern look at a classic Shakespearean tragedy. Bedlam has a reputation for new, fresh, active environment storytelling that creates a kinetic experience of shared empathy. Lead by Bedlam's Artistic Director Eric Tucker, Bedlam brings its six-woman interpretation of William Shakespeare's King Lear to the Philadelphia region and Bucks County. This exciting collaboration represents the first time Bristol Riverside Theatre has presented another theatre company on its stage.

Lear runs January 28-February 16, 2020, with opening night on Thursday, January 30, 2020, at 7:30pm. All performances are at Bristol Riverside Theatre, located at 120 Radcliffe Street. Tickets are on sale now for $10-$50. They can be purchased online at brtstage.org, at the theatre's box office, or over the phone at 215-785-0100.

"It is a major part of our mission to explore everything theatre has to offer and to bring the most exciting and contemporary ideas to our stage," said BRT Artistic Director Keith Baker. "Bedlam is a well respected innovator of classical work. It will be unlike anything our audience has seen before and will hopefully enhance the reputation of BRT as being fearless in what we choose to present. This is the first time BRT has presented another theatre company on its Mainstage. Getting to know Eric Tucker, the artistic director of Bedlam, when he was here directing our production of The Rivals was a clear indication that his work should be seen on our stage."


Considered by many to be the greatest tragedy ever written, King Lear is an epic tale of sorrow, forgiveness, madness, and reconciliation. In this classic drama, an aging king creates a succession plan to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He requires each child to flatter him in order to receive her gift. Lear is surprised when his youngest, most beloved child refuses. Publicly embarrassed, Lear takes her out of the equation and splits the country between his two eldest daughters, setting off a chain of events that leads them into civil war and sees the elderly king exiled and going mad. Led by director Eric Tucker, New York's acclaimed Bedlam Theatre comes to BRT with a fresh retelling of this Shakespearean classic.

Bedlam workshopped the play several years ago. The company wanted to do it in two parts with each part dealing with several points of view and turning it into a real ensemble piece -- instead of it just being a showcase for an actor to play Lear. During the initial workshop, all actors shared the role of King Lear, based on whose point of view they were looking through. At BRT, for the first production, Bedlam will look through the points of view of King Lear and his youngest and favored daughter Cordelia. Later in the year, look for the second production to take place in New York City.


The cast of King Lear is Therese Barbato, Lisa Birnbaum, Eliza Fichter, Santa Claire Hirsch, Stefani Kuo, and Zuzanna Szadkowski. Szadkowski, who appeared as Dorota on Gossip Girl and was Nurse Pell on the Cinemax series from Steven Soderbergh, The Knick, plays King Lear. Her extensive theatre credits include earning the Wall Street Journal Performance of the Year in 2018 for Juliet.

Barbato plays Cordelia/Fool. She has extensive theatre credits and made her Broadway debut last year in King Lear with Glenda Jackson. She was in the ensemble and understudied Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia/Fool. Birnbaum plays Gloucester/Goneril. She has extensive regional and off-Broadway credits including Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility (Folger, ART, & Portland Centerstage), Lysistrata (Conn. Rep), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Playmakers Rep), and others. Fichter plays Regan/Poor Tom/Knight. She has extensive regional credits and previously worked with Bedlam in collaboration with The Nora Theatre Company in The Crucible.

Hirsch plays Oswald/Burgandy/Cornwall/Doctor/Gentleman. She is a recent graduate of Wagner College. She has produced many of her own cabaret shows in Mexico and has appeared in Bill Solly's Solly's Follies in New York. Her one woman show Two Worlds Colliding appeared in New York at Tongue in Cheek's Plus One Solo Festival directed by Jake Lipman. Kuo is France/Kent/Albany. She is a playwright, poet, and performer and a native of Hong Kong and graduated from Yale. She has extensive theatre credits and has worked in New York, Minneapolis, Williamstown, New Haven, Hong Kong, Provence, Taipei, Nantou, Oxford, and Berlin.


Tucker, who is returning to BRT after directing The Rivals last season, is excited about how timely King Lear remains and what audiences will gain from this production. "It's timely because it's about family, politics and power, succession, human nature and maybe most of all, because the writing is some of the best in the English language. That never gets old," said Tucker. "I hope audiences are able to look at a classic play in a different way. I hope they see how expansive theatre can be with the help of their own imagination and the way we tell a story, which is always trying to find the most theatrical way of doing so."

The creative team behind this production includes Jason Simms as the Scenic Designer. Simms designed the expansive set for BRT's season opener, An Act of God. Joe Doran is the Lighting Designer. Doran was the Lighting Designer for Tucker's production of The Rivals at BRT and has assisted Howell Brinkley as Associate Lighting Designer on several Broadway Shows and National Tours, including Summer, The Donna Summer Musical and the National Tour of Hamilton. Lisa Zinni is the Costume Designer. Zinni has extensive Broadway credits and most recently was the Costume Designer for Freestyle Love Supreme. Brad Ward is the Sound Designer. Ward returns to BRT after Sound Design for The Rivals. He has extensive credits including a TONY nomination for Choir Boy on Broadway. Violeta Picayo is the Assistant Director. Musa Gurnis is the Dramaturg. Sean Ravitz is the Production Stage Manager.


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