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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Mute Cordelia in Washington
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1758  Monday, 18 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Harry Teplitz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 01:02:35 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Lear in DC

[2]     From:   Tonya Beckman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 11:00:27 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1749 Mute Cordelia in Washington

[3]     From:   Melissa Cook <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 14:04:02 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1749 Mute Cordelia in Washington

[4]     From:   Jimmy Jung <
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        Date:   Monday, 18 Oct 1999 00:29:56 -0400
        Subj:   DC Lear with mute Cordelia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Teplitz <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 01:02:35 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Lear in DC

Hi all,

The current Washington Shakespeare Theater production of King Lear does
indeed feature a deaf Cordelia.  (The character is deaf, but clearly
reads lips).  As previously discussed, Cordelia signs most of her lines
and they are spoken aloud by others (though she does speak the line "I
am" when Lear recognizes her after his madness).  I, for one, had no
problem with the line "her voice was ever gentle and low".

I understand from the press on the production, which is directed by
Michael Kahn, that Cordelia's deafness is intended to explore the
barriers preventing communication between her and her father, and when
he signs his words to her for the first time late in the play it is
particularly moving.  The production also tries to explore the
connection between Cordelia and the Fool, derived of course from the
idea that they were originally played by the same actor (even bringing
the Fool's body onstage at the end for "my poor fool is hanged").

However, I think the production was plagued by a series of poor choices
regarding Cordelia and the Fool.  They both seem to exist in some other
world than the rest of the characters.  The play is costumed almost
uniformly in post-WWI British clothing.  The Fool is more modern, and
Cordelia is aggressively modern (cropped punk hair cut, glaringly dyed
blond).  Why are they separated in this way?  The Fool sings his songs
as parodies of various modern tunes (a rap, "Memory" from Cats, etc.)  I
can imagine having them in some more abstract world, commenting on Lear
rather than being changed by him, would work. But they are ultimately
part of Lear's world, since they die in it....

I would be very interested to know if anyone got more out of the
Fool/Cordelia choices.  I am usually quite impressed with Khan's
directing, but this time I don't get it.

Cheers,
Harry Teplitz

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tonya Beckman <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 11:00:27 EDT
Subject: 10.1749 Mute Cordelia in Washington
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1749 Mute Cordelia in Washington

HR Greenberg wrote:
>the current
>version of KING LEAR at the Washington Shakespeare Theater, features a
>mute Cordelia (although not apparently deaf). The actress, who is not
>deaf, signs her lines, and these are read by those around her, notably
>the Fool

According to the Actors' Equity Assn. website  (www.actorsequity.org),
the actress in question is indeed deaf.  The website says:

"Deaf actress Monique Holt is playing Cordelia in D.C. Shakespeare's
season opener, King Lear. Ms. Holt is signing her role and her lines are
being spoken by the actor playing the Fool. It is meant to point up
Cordelia's punishment for expressing herself differently. "

Tonya Beckman

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Cook <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Oct 1999 14:04:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 10.1749 Mute Cordelia in Washington
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1749 Mute Cordelia in Washington

>Unfortunately, where the
>concept breaks down is-where else-"Her voice was
>ever low and gentle" so
>forth.

I found this line to work in the production.  It is spoken when Lear
sees Cordelia dead and given the history of the king's mental state it
is easy to believe that he would, at this moment, briefly return to his
fantasy world, imagining away Cordelia's muteness.

Melissa Cook

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jimmy Jung <
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Date:           Monday, 18 Oct 1999 00:29:56 -0400
Subject:        DC Lear with mute Cordelia

Yes, I also saw the DC production of Lear with the mute Cordelia and was
in the process of trying to pull together my notes and thoughts.  Thanks
to the SRO policy at the Shakespeare theater, we saw Cordelia's first
scene from the back of the house and everything else from the front
row.  My response was quite different from the two locations.  From the
back row, I found the use of sign-language mostly insignificant, but I
was struck with the peculiarity of hearing her "voice" in the male voice
of the fool.  It made me wonder how it would have played with a female
fool (or if a female fool has ever been used?)  But from the front row,
I found Cordelia quite extraordinary.  It may sound clich

 

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