Full Cast & Creative Team Announced for World Premiere of Marcus Gardley's Modern Verse Translation of KING LEAR

LEAR is set in San Francisco’s Fillmore District from the eminent domain crisis through to the subsequent displacement of the 1960s.

By: Jul. 29, 2022
Full Cast & Creative Team Announced for World Premiere of Marcus Gardley's Modern Verse Translation of KING LEAR
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California Shakespeare Theater has announced the full cast and creative team for LEAR, the world premiere modern verse translation of Williams Shakespeare's King Lear by playwright and Oakland-native Marcus Gardley (black odyssey at Cal Shakes). Co-directed by Cal Shakes' Artistic Director Eric Ting and Aurora Theater Company's Associate Artistic Director Dawn Monique Williams-and starring James A. Williams in the titular role-LEAR is presented in partnership with Oakland Theater Project and Play On Shakespeare. LEAR performs at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater (100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda) September 7-October 2, 2022. Press night will be held on Wednesday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m. Single tickets (ranging from $35-$70) are available online at calshakes.org or by calling 510-548-9666 (Tuesday-Friday from 2-6 p.m.). Ticket prices are subject to change without notice.

Set in San Francisco's Fillmore District from the eminent domain crisis through to the subsequent displacement of the 1960s, LEAR is Gardley's deeply personal deconstruction of the classic story of power, betrayal, and madness. The production-infused with live jazz music accompaniment composed by Resident Artistic Director at SF Jazz, Marcus Shelby-reckons with uncomfortable legacies, with the consequences of our actions, and with the vulnerability and ultimate resilience of the human heart to find its way back again.

"Translating King Lear was a dream as it is my favorite Shakespearean drama," said Marcus Gardley. "I am elated to be able to share this timeless story with the Bay Area and to have two of my favorite directors at the helm-Eric Ting and Dawn Monique Williams. We have the honor of presenting this epic and placing it in The Bay at a pivotal time in our community's history. The Bay Area is the perfect location for LEAR because of themes concerning class, the wealth gap, and the importance of family, community, and legacy. I am certain that audiences will have an incredible time experiencing LEAR. It has been a long time since black odyssey and it's great to be back home doing another classic!"

"My time at Cal Shakes as much as anything has been defined by the community of artists that have graced our stage," said Cal Shakes Artistic Director and LEAR Co-Director Eric Ting. "I consider it the greatest gift to welcome Marcus Gardley back with his stunning re-imagining of King Lear, and to collaborate with the extraordinary Dawn Monique Williams as Co-Director! It's sure to be an exquisite conclusion to my tenure at Cal Shakes and I hope a real celebration of this craft-this community-we call theater."

Adds Co-Director Dawn Monique Williams: "Marcus Gardley is one of the greatest playwrights of our time. His stunning poetry and limitless dramatic imagination bring such heart to his work. As the president of Shakepeare's fan club, I can think of no better marriage than that of these two Bards. This LEAR all at once delights in wit, shatters the heart, and asks us all to take care of home."

Starring James A. Williams as Lear, the cast includes (in alphabetical order): Michael J. Asberry (Gloucester), Emma Van Lare (Regan), Dov Hassan (Cornwall), Sam Jackson (Cordelia/The Comic), Leontyne Mbele-Mbong (Goneril), Cathleen Riddley (Kent), Kenny Scott (Albany), Jomar Tagatac (Edmund), Dane Troy (Edgar), and Velina Brown (Black Queen).

The creative team for LEAR includes Tanya Orellana (Scenic Designer), Lux Haac (Costume Designer), Cherelle Guyton (Wigs, Hair, and Make Up Designer) Scott Bolman (Lighting Designer), Elton Bradman (Sound Designer), Dave Maier (Fight Director), Jeunée Simon (Intimacy Director), Wesley Apfel (Stage Manager), Christina Hogan (Assistant Stage Manager), Brandon Yang (Production Assistant), Haley Miller (Production Manager), Philippa Kelly (Dramaturg), Nina M. Fay (COVID Safety Manager & Understudy Ensemble Director), and Casting Collective (Casting).

Oaklandish and Cal Shakes are proud to announce their partnership in support of Marcus Gardley's Lear. As a Production Partner for Lear, Oaklandish has designed an exclusive co-branded t-shirt and custom quilted blankets for the Bruns outdoor amphitheater. With the purchase of the shirt Oaklandish customers will receive two free tickets to select performances of LEAR performances September 7-10th. The shirt will also be on sale at the Bruns with the revenue supporting Cal Shakes ongoing outreach and performances.

Oaklandish started in 2000 as a public art project designed to illuminate Oakland's local history and unique cultural legacy. After years of covert multi-media stunts around the Town, the Oaklandish brand of apparel was introduced to help support our ongoing calendar of free events and pro bono work.

Marcus Gardley is an acclaimed poet, playwright, screenwriter and TV writer whom The New Yorker describes as "the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams." He won the 2022 WGA award for best adapted longform series for MAID (Netflix). In 2019, he was named the Library Laureate of San Francisco by the city's mayor and was the recipient of the 2019 Doris Duke Artist Award. He was a 2019 Obie Award winner for his play The House That Will Not Stand, the 2015 Glickman Award winner, and a finalist for the 2016 and 2015 Kennedy Prize. Other plays include X or the Nation v Betty Shabazz, black odyssey, The Gospel of Loving Kindness, Every Tongue Confess, ...and Jesus moonwalks the Mississippi, and The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry. In TV, he has written for several series including Boots Riley's I'm A Virgo (Amazon), The Chi (Showtime), Foundation (Apple), NOS4A2 (AMC), Tales of the City and Mindhunter (Netflix). He's currently in an overall deal at Amazon. His feature adaptation of The Color Purple musical will be released in theaters in December 2023 and his Marvin Gaye biopic was just picked up by Warner Brothers with Allen Hughes attached to direct. Gardley was born and raised in Oakland, California.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Eric Ting and Managing Director Sarah Williams, California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes) is now in its 48th season as a nationally recognized leader in drawing on the power of authentic, inclusive storytelling to create more vibrant communities. Serving more than 43,000 people annually, Cal Shakes invites people from all walks of life to make deeply felt connections with our shared humanity through its work onstage, in schools, and with people in non-traditional settings throughout the Bay Area who have little or no access to theater.

Oakland Theater Project is a collection of artists that are committed to creating compelling works that unearth the human condition and unite diverse audiences through revelatory, heart-pounding theater. Founded in Oakland, California, in 2012, Oakland (Ubuntu) Theater Project shared three annual summer theater festivals and produced 14 plays in five Bay Area cities during that time. Oakland Theater Project is now proud to offer year-long theater for Oakland and the Bay Area through our mainstage seasons.

Play On Shakespeare is a non-profit company promoting and creating contemporary modern translations of Shakespeare's plays. Since its inception in 2015, Play On has commissioned dozens of contemporary playwrights and translators to translate 39 Shakespeare plays into modern English, with a majority of the commissions being helmed by BIPOC and womxn playwrights. Far from a paraphrasing exercise, each playwright was tasked with matching Shakespeare's linguistic rigor as they approached the text, preserving rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, meter, imagery, symbolism, rhetoric, and the structure that make Shakespeare's plays engaging and accessible to today's audience. Play On partners with artists and organizations across the globe to deliver and advocate for these translations through different channels, including theatrical productions, podcasts, publications, and film. For more information, visit playonshakespeare.org.


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