Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Soundtrack to King Lear

For opening night, the cast and crew of King Lear compiled a music playlist!

Click here to listen along with us:

From tongue in cheek to serious inspirations, these songs reflect the themes, sounds, characters, and moods of our show. What songs would you add? (respond in the comments!)

The King Lear Soundtrack

1)     “We both go down together” The Decemberists

“Here on these cliffs of Dover

So high you can’t see over

And while your head is spinning

Hold tight it’s just beginning…”

2)     “Fool in the Rain” Led Zeppelin (Submitted by Lauren Modica, the Fool)

I’ll run in the rain till I’m breathless

When I’m breathless I’ll run till I drop, hey

The thoughts of a fool’s kind of careless

I’m just a fool waiting on the wrong block”

3)      “Get me to the church on time” from My Fair Lady (submitted by Rob Harrison – Burgundy).

“I’m getting married in the morning

Ding dong the bells are going to chime!”

4)     “Behind Blue Eyes” The Who (submitted by Melissa Whitney – Goneril)

“No one knows what it’s like

To be the bad man, to be the sad man

Behind blue eyes”

5)     “Thistle and Weeds” Mumford and Sons (Submitted by McKenna Twedt, Costume Designer)

For me, “Thistle and Weeds” is Lear’s storm on the heath and tumultuous journey through it transcribed into a single song. The music and lyrics perfectly match his emotional state. The the song also has an earthy or folksy quality that I like, while still keeping the swelling and overwhelming sound of several instruments creating a storm.

“Rain down, rain down on me…”

6)     “Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked” Cage the Elephant (submitted by Tom Walton, Edmund)

No we can’t slow down, we can’t hold back

Though you know we wish we could

There ain’t no rest for the wicked

Until we close our eyes for good.”

7)     “Earthquake Weather” Beck

“Something’s comin sky is purple

Dogs are howling to themselves”

Days are changin’ with the weather

Like a rip tide could rip us away”

8)     “People Got a Lotta Nerve”  Neko Case (Submitted by Brenan Dwyer, Regan)

Regan’s been looked over her whole life in favor of her sisters. Even her father doesn’t understand that there’s something fierce boiling inside her: “Thy tender-hearted nature shall not give/Thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but thine/Do comfort and not burn.” So in this song, I hear the thumping, persistent, fun-loving, and violent response that pounds in Regan.

“I’m a man man man man man man eater

But still you’re surprised prised prised when I eat ya.”

9)     “None of your Business” Salt N Pepa (submitted by Melissa Whitney, Goneril)

Now who do you think you are

Putting your cheap two cents in?”

10)  “Oh Daddy” Fleetwood Mac (Submitted by Brenan Dwyer, Regan)

“Oh daddy you know you make me cry

How can you love me? I don’t understand why

Oh daddy, if I can make you see

If there’s been a fool around,

It’s got to be me.”

11) “The Worst Part’s Almost Over” (Submitted by Jason Maniccia, Cornwall)

“Think I’m unkind
But people aren’t the way you think they are”

12)  “These Eyes” The Guess Who (Submitted by Gary Powell, Gloucestor)

“These eyes are cryin’

These eyes have seen a lot of loves

But they’re never gonna see another one like I had with you”

(…like, literally, they’re never gonna see another one…)

13)  “I’m Still Standing” Elton John (Submitted by Clara Hillier, Cordelia)

Cordelia speaks her mind, she gets shot down and exiled from her home. She loses out on one marriage, land, and her father’s love, but fortunately a gallant King sees her as something special. Although she may stay offstage for quite some time…I personally think Cordelia is just doing a film training montage of machete practice, lunges and perfecting her battle skills. And when she returns in the second half of the show, this is her mantra. – Clara Hillier

“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did,

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid,

I’m still standing after all this time”

14)   “Slave to Love” Bryan Ferry (Submitted by Nate Crosby, Oswald)

“You’ve got to know

How the strong get weak

And the rich get poor

Slave to love”

15)  “Comfortably Numb” Pink Floyd (submitted by Rob Harrison, Doctor)

“You would not understand, this is not how I am

I have become comfortably numb.”

16)   “When I’m Sixty-Four” The Beatles (Submitted by Ted Roisum, King Lear)

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me,

When I’m sixty-four?”

King Lear opens Friday 2/28

King Lear opens Friday 2/28

King Lear, attended by his knight and fool, heads into the storm. Photo (c) Jason Maniccia 2014.

Ted and Clara rehearse the final scene

Ted and Clara rehearse the final scene

Actors Ted Roisum and Clara Hillier (with Nate Crosby and Jeffrey Arrington in the background) work through the final, moving moments of King Lear.

Clara Hillier on Lear the father

This has indeed been one storm of a rehearsal process for Miss Cordelia! I have always been intrigued by the honesty and inner strength of Cordelia, but I could not have anticipated the emotional journey her relationship with her father would need to be, both for the character and for me onstage. This may sound ridiculous and completely obvious, but I personally do not have a good example of a father-daughter relationship. When I received the role of Cordelia I was terrified at how to best convey that love and admiration for a father that is at the core of her being and personal philosophy. Throughout the rehearsal process I have struggled internally with what to do, how to look at, how to touch, how to address, how to embrace a father. I haven’t spoken to my own father for almost 13 years now.

I was out of rehearsal for a week as my health decided to take a turn for the worst, and during that stay I reflected a lot on the impact my father has had on my life, although he has been absent for so long. He loves Shakespeare, I love Shakespeare. He is a performer, as am I. His words and anger still hold power over me daily, but the good memories also stick around. He last knew me as a teenager trying to figure out who I needed to become and has no idea that I’m an actress, teacher, dancer etc. But he is part of me. Let me just tell you, a week in the hospital during a snow storm makes you think a lot!!

Last night in rehearsal, I had a break through. It was unexpected and much more powerful that I care to admit, but our King Lear, the inspiring Ted Roisum, finally broke through my barriers and changed my perspective. In the reconciliation scene between Cordelia and Lear, the language is gorgeous and honest, but it was Ted’s persistence to have me hear and see him on these particular lines: 

“If you have poison for me, I will drink it. 
I know you do not love me, for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong.
You have some cause, they have not.”

And then as we prepare to exit…
“You must bear with me. 
Pray you now, forget and forgive”

And I knew that is all I have to do for Cordelia, forget and forgive, and remember that love is at her core. And then move on with letting the past be the past.

Gary Powell explores how blind Gloucestor really is…

Gary Powell explores how blind Gloucestor really is...

“What a complex work. It asks the BIG questions about the forces beyond our control and leaves them unanswered. In that way, among others, it is a contemporary play.”

Deep stuff, Gary.

JoAnn Johnson shares an inspiration

At this point–about halfway through the rehearsal process–I am watching the snow fall and hoping it stops soon so we can rehearse!  
We are working together in rehearsal to create a world that will hold the vastness of the vision of this play.  The playwright builds a universe out of dichotomies–love/lust, power/fragility, loyalty/ betrayal, age/youth, wisdom/folly, insight/blindness ( and on and on…)  How to hold all that and more in the space of three hours onstage-and a tiny stage, at that?  The answer seems clear, but nonetheless a huge challenge:  to let the play speak through believable characters, and trust  the power of the human imagination, especially that of our audience! 
One very useful resource for me in this process has been Marvin Rosenberg’s THE MASKS OF KING LEAR.  Here is a passage from his book that inspires me– 
The dark, deadly, grimly comic world of LEAR evokes so wide and intense a range of responses on so many levels of consciousness because it reflects so many varieties of human possibility, from the transcendent to the animal–so many that it must defeat any attempt to enclose its meaning in limited formulae such as redemption, retribution, endgame, morality,….We may find some rest in the assurance that Shakespeare shares our preference for love over hate, honesty over falsehood, loyalty over disloyalty, order over disorder; but we cannot go on to extract morals from his play:  that order will triumph, love conquers all, suffering redeems, recompense waits in the next world–unless we invent them.  The playwright describes, he does not prescribe.  Only a tragic vision as vast as one of his own lines from LEAR can suggest the whole implication of the play’s world for our own:  Edgar’s
                                  …it is,                    
And my heart breaks at it.

Tom Walton on The Villains

Villains By Necessity

I have seen 4 separate productions of King Lear over the past 10 years, from Ashland to England; most notably, Ian McKellen in Stratford.  All very different productions yet all having one striking similarity… I didn’t enjoy any of them.  I have read synopses, reviews and heard people endlessly gush about how perfect a story Lear is.  Being a fairly regular Shakespearean actor it would seem that I should very much enjoy this work but there was always something missing.  I just didn’t like the character of Lear.

I was satisfied to go on with my acting, ignoring this fundamental problem and all the awkward conversations where I sat through tirades about how I wasn’t mature enough to understand his arc or hadn’t worked with Shakespeare enough to “get it.”  As strong as those points are… no one shed any light on why I should like the patriarch of the play.

So when the part of Edmund was presented I was a touch nervous yet resolved to dive in.  The language is wonderfully vivid, the characters are nuanced and the story is long, albeit complete.  And I quickly realized the flaws I found in the productions I saw were very much laid at the directors’ feet.

Every production I have seen and everyone I have spoken with maintain that Lear is a sympathetic character.  This is almost entirely established by presenting Regan and Goneril as fundamentally wicked.  This is a play where no character is plain enough to be labeled villain.  Each character has villainous moments but none of them are enough to justify the title completely.

Yes Regan and Goneril turn their backs on their father who has become completely belligerent. Yet all they require of him is to disband half of his 100 riotous knights that treat their homes like brothels and an apology for cursing their unborn children… The nerve.  Lear behaves like a two year old having a tantrum when his favorite daughter won’t say she loves him more than she could love a husband.  Ultimately, when Lear goes “insane” from his self exile into the storm, there is no real epiphany that he was wrong and should just apologize for being a needy, abusive, insecure father.  Instead he decides to wage war, with a foreign army, against all of England.

Yes Gloucester gets his eyes put out at the order of Cornwall and Regan but let’s not forget that he was committing high-treason by encouraging France (once again, a foreign army) to invade England.  Although the blinding is a barbaric punishment, usually played up by directors, it is still a mercy that Gloucester is not killed.  I believe high-treason is still punishable by death in THIS country, but we should probably check with Edward Snowden.

Finally, yes, Goneril poisons Regan and after kills herself.  But let’s not forget that they are both madly in love with Edmund (who has made a point to follow the carnal laws of nature because he has been treated like a second-class citizen his whole life… but that is a different blog post).  By the end of the play Edmund has seduced these 2 women who are in marriages of necessity to husbands who will ultimately take the helm leading the country while their wives, formerly king’s daughters, are only expected to bear children.  We all know at the time, this was the fate of high-born women and obviously having a 21st century view is going to skew our impressions of duty but try to imagine how limiting and oppressive a life that is entirely planned out for you before you were born must feel.  Then add on a caustic father.  Now introduce a charming man that has made a point to seduce by presenting options into an otherwise option-less life.  Murder is hardly a justifiable act, but I think I can understand how Goneril got to the point where she poisoned her sister.

It is too easy to whitewash the sisters and Edmund as evil.  By doing this, directors force an audience to side with mad Lear and his bully knights (I’m looking at you Kent) and this is what was bothering me about the productions I have seen.  As a result you lose too much nuance to make this an interesting story.  At least for me.

-Tom Walton, Edmund