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.

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