The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1762 Tuesday, 18 October 2005
From: Nancy Charlton <
Date: Monday, 17 Oct 2005 23:42:12 +0000
Subject: "King Lear in a Box"
Monday 17 October
Yesterday I was able to say, "A fortnight hence I will be giving the
program I've been planning for months." However, today I'd have to say a
it's a thirtnight, and tomorrow--well, you say it!
The occasion on the 30th will have two parts. I'll have a very mixed
general audience, more old than young, more town than gown. After a
70-minute talk by me on speech and poeisis and language, a pre-selected
cast will do "King Lear in a Box," from a series published by Workman
Publishing. Besides KL, they have Taming of a Shrew. The inro from the
editor, actor and teacher Carl Martin, implies that he has done others
but the haven't been published. (Richard Burt mentioned the KL on
SHAKSPER in I think it was 2002.) The "box" includes complete text, 10
playing scripts, cards about each character (which I'll amplify a bit),
and props: plastic eyeballs, a fool's cap, and a retractable knife. I
may add some Halloweenish props, seeing as how it will be Samhain as
well as Reformation Sunday.
The idea is to play KL in about 40 minutes. Mr Martin has done a fine
job of condensing the play. I'm going to restore Kent in the stocks,
however, and also prolong the "war" scene. It won't be conventional
fighting; I've seen in done with swords and with staves but I'm tapping
three talented children (ages 10-13) of some friends plus one or three
of their friends to conduct this fight in Tae Kwon Do. I may put back a
speech or two as well. The place I'm using is really set up for
concerts, replete with grand piano. However, the Classical Greek Theatre
uses the space for its productions, and as an adaptable, minimalist
space it works very well.
Since I'll be using a large map of England in my talk, I'll leave it up,
with the factions' HDQs plus Dover all marked, and the map scale
prominently displayed. I think it is helpful in this play to give an
idea of the distances covered.
So, I'm wondering if any of you have done this 40-minute KL, ad I'd
cherish your responses and ideas.
Mr Martin suggests having Lear played with controlled rage rather than
shouting, even at the elements. There is a fashion of having Goneril and
Regan being deliberated provocative, wearing bondage outfits, body
jewelry and tattoos. I think they should be more controlled. They are,
after all, mature women, duchesses of no small social stature. Their
come-ons to Edmund will be more effective for being subtle and tasteful;
it makes their icy amorality and dissembling the more chilling. Cornwall
in many is a far more thoroughgoing bastard than Edmund: at least we
know what's driving Edmund. Albany is not a wimp or a coward, as Mr
Martin's notes suggest, but at best a sincerely gentle man who just
doesn't get it until too late.
Mr Martin's edition has Albany speak the last four lines. I'll go with
the more logical convention of having Edgar speak them, as Albany is
clearly handing over the reins of state. Since I'm planning to encourage
my audience to be like Globe groundlings and talk back to the actors,
and because I'll do some speaking exercises with the whole audience
beforehand, I think they will be ready to speak those four lines along
with Edgar, and it should be a powerful moment.
Those are my ideas that have evolved so far, on paper rather than on
stage. Thanks in advance for your input.
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Hardy M. Cook,
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