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Cal Shakes to Close 41st Main Stage Season with KING LEAR


California Shakespeare Theater concludes its 2015 Main Stage season with King Lear, Shakespeare's most brilliant and profound tragedy, helmed by nationally-acclaimed director Amanda Dehnert, and featuring two-time Tony nominee and film star Anthony Heald (Silence of the Lambs, Broadway's The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper) in the title role. King Lear plays at the BART-accessible Bruns Amphitheater from September 16 through October 11.

Once there was a king who, in a moment of reckless selfishness, disinherited his most affectionate child and ended up losing everything he held dear. Shakespeare brings his masterful understanding of human nature to this timeless exploration of mortality, insanity, the abuse of power, and how a man may be redefined-physically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally-by his age.

"Lear is a guy who fought all his life to get where he is, and then has to deal with the fact that he's aging and his mind is changing," says director Amanda Dehnert. "He should be able to relax and enjoy his family in the time he has left, but he makes one mistake and suddenly the people around him are doing horrible things to get what they want. You don't have to look far to see the same dynamic playing out in families today"

She adds, "As a director, you don't really think about tackling Lear unless you have an actor you can collaborate with on the creation of that character. Tony (Anthony Heald) and I have worked together a couple of times at OSF, and playing Lear was high on his list. I'm thrilled we're going to dig into this one together."

"I've been wanting to play this part for the last five years," says Anthony Heald. "At 65, I began to feel that I was approaching the age when it would be appropriate. I was playing Shakespeare in Equivocation at OSF, and it is set at the time that Shakespeare was writing King Lear, so I started studying the play to get a sense of what Shakespeare's mindset would have been during that time. I had never actually seen, or studied King Lear, and I was just gobsmacked by it. I've had it on my wish list hoping that someday somebody would ask me to do it. A little over a year ago, [director Amanda Dehnert], said that I'd be receiving a call from Jonathan Moscone, because she'd asked for me for King Lear, so I've had almost 15 months to really immerse myself in the play, and the role."

Anthony Heald (Lear) has performed in seven Broadway and 24 off-Broadway productions, including The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper, which recently concluded its record-breaking run on London's West End. He has earned two Tony Award nominations (for Anything Goes and Love! Valour! Compassion!), two Obie Awards, and a Theatre World Award. He has appeared in several dozen films, including Silence of the Lambs, The Client, The Pelican Brief, and Proof of Life. He starred in the TV series Boston Public, and has guest-starred on numerous other TV programs including Boston Legal, The X-Files, The Practice, and Law and Order. In ten seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival he has been seen as Iago in Othello, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady, the Duke in Measure for Measure, Tartuffe in Tartuffe, and the Stage Manager in Our Town, among others; next season at OSF he will play the title role in Timon of Athens.

Also in the production are Arwen Anderson, last seen at Cal Shakes in 2013's Romeo and Juliet, as Goneril; Kjerstine Rose Anderson, who has appeared in numerous OSF productions, including Into the Woods directed by Amanda Dehnert, as Cordelia/The Fool; El Beh, most recently seen as Mash in SF Playhouse's Stupid F**king Bird, as Regan; Aldo Billingslea, returning to Cal Shakes after appearing in Spunk, A Winter's Tale, and Lady Windermere's Fan, as Kent; Dan Clegg, whose most recent appearance at Cal Shakes was in 2014's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as Edmund; Rafael Jordan, who appeared in Love and Information at A.C.T. and American Buffalo at Aurora, as Edgar; and Charles Shaw Robinson, last seen in Choir Boy at Marin Theatre Company, as Gloucester. Rounding out the cast are Patrick Alparone (The Normal Heart, A.C.T.; numerous production at the Magic); Craig Marker (last seen in Cal Shakes' 2014 A Midsummer Night's Dream), and Sam Misner (who tours extensively with the Americana/Folk duo Misner & Smith) as the Ensemble. Ms. (Kjerstine Rose) Anderson, Ms. Beh, Mr. Jordan, and Mr. Alparone are all making their Cal Shakes debut with this production.

The creative team for King Lear includes set designer Dan Ostling, whose previous Cal Shakes projects include 2013's Romeo and Juliet, The Verona Project, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing; costume designer Melissa Torchia, who was also a part of the design team for The Verona Project, and whose work appears regularly in regional theaters in the Chicago area; lighting designer Christopher Akerlind, designer of more than 650 productions for theater and opera in the U.S. and around the world, and whose work on Light in the Piazza earned him numerous awards, including the Tony; and sound designer Joshua Horvath whose soundscapes have graced productions across the country, from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the Kennedy Center, and whose work has been recognized with 4 Jefferson awards and an Ovation award.

Amanda Dehnert (Director) returns to Cal Shakes after the 2011 world premiere of The Verona Project, her musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. She is a director, composer, and adapter whose productions include: Into the Woods, My Fair Lady, Julius Caesar, and All's Well That Ends Well (in four seasons at Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Peter Pan (A Play) (Lookingglass Theatre Co.), which she wrote and directed; Eastland: A New Musical (Lookingglass), which she directed and orchestrated; Richard III (Public Theater); Ken Ludwig's Baskerville (world premiere, McCarter Theatre and Arena Stage); Death of a Salesman (Dallas Theater Center); The Fantasticks (South Coast Rep/Arena Stage/Long Wharf); Cabaret (Stratford Shakespeare Festival); Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); and most recently, she co-composed, with Andre Pluess, the new musical, Shining Lives, with libretto by Jessica Thebus (world premiere, Northlight Theatre). She is an Associate Professor in the theater department at Northwestern University. Prior to that, she taught for the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA program, and spent many years at Trinity Rep, serving as Acting Artistic Director for the 2005-2006 season. Her productions there included Henry IV, West Side Story, Othello, and Saint Joan, among others.

Single tickets for King Lear range from $20 to $72, with discounts available for seniors, students, military families, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Prices, dates, titles, and artists are subject to change. For information or to charge tickets by phone with VISA, MasterCard, or American Express, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666. Additional information and online ticketing are available at

California Shakespeare Theater's 2015 season is supported in part by the generosity of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, and The Shubert Foundation. California Shakespeare Theater's production of King Lear is part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national program of the National Endowment of the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Corporate partners include BART, City National Bank, Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa, Meyer Sound, Peet's Coffee & Tea, and San Francisco magazine; production partner for King Lear is John Muir Health.

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