Tag Archives: Lear

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.

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.