I think this production started forming in my head while I was with my father in his last days. It was such a privilege to watch the old patriarch cursing his circumstances, fighting, scheming, seeing people that weren’t there, blushing, cooing, steadying his course toward the end, making peace, weeping and laughing. Battling and giving up, giving in. No answers, no big resolution. Just mystery and the preciousness of time.
Life at the threshold of death and the surging tides of family issues are at the core of King Lear. While the play is full of harsh cruelty and hideous rashness, there are moments of tremendous love and selflessness. Through this play we witness a profoundly powerful man, a king of Olympian proportions, confronting his mortality with alternating waves of courage, peevishness, madness, and rage. It is only by losing everything that he finds forgiveness and acceptance.
The themes of this epic story are alive in our everyday experience. Each of us carries the invisible weight of unspoken grief. We all play parts in the story of losing and dying. If we’re lucky, we will recognize our common ground. If we’re luckier still, someone we love will be with us as we go.
These gifted and dedicated actors and crew-members have gathered for a few short weeks to begin an exploration of this massive and inscrutable play. We have poured all our energy and resources into the words and the interactions of the characters. With you sitting on every side around us, at this night’s performance, we hope to catch one more sliver of light shining into the shadows.
We hope that you get a glimpse of it too, that you think kindly of our attempt, and above all that you think of King Lear as yours from now on, to visit whenever you please.
We have a truly remarkable collaboration going! First of all, the cast itself, a wonderful team of actors and artists is there every day, working together on the scenes, on the set, on costumes and sound. Very different from the usual compartmentalizing of these tasks–and the results are stunningly effective, considering our tiny budget–and emerge from the story itself since it’s the participants who are creating the whole thing. The scenes of violence are well on their way, with the aid of a formidable arsenal of weapons practically donated by Shakespeare & Co, and they are terrible and heartbreaking. The story itself seems to be showing us exactly what to do in the Hall, which is slowly transforming into a Macbeth landscape–and we end each evening feeling regenerated by the privilege of working together on this compact perfection of a play. We are way ahead of schedule and will be starting a long series of run-throughs soon, so we should be in very good shape by opening.
On top of that, John Sutton, an amazing photographer, has been shooting the entire process from the first reading, and we’ll end up with a complete and beautiful record of the process, which we are thinking of turning into an on-demand book that could serve all kinds of purposes. David DeVries will be shooting video… This is the theater working at its absolute best!
Sense and nonsense are equally subject to critical scrutiny, but it is perhaps more difficult to develop standards for good nonsense. One has to acquire a sense of it. The scenes of The Tennis Court Oath… arose out of a course in site-specific writing. The writing, which is all by the actors themselves, except for small contributions by Shakespeare and Yeats, began with meditative observation of each site. Characters and situations thus came out of the ground, out of the sky. In compilation, revision and rehearsal, good sense and nonsense were judged less by thought than by sensory perception. We tried to keep what smelled good, what rang nicely in the ear.