As our summer stages come to life, Shakespeare & Company is the first to light up its largest, The Founders’ Stage, when King Lear begins its run from June 16 to September 1 in Lenox. It is the first time this elemental story has been on its main stage in almost a decade.
King Lear is timeless, a tragic tale of a misguided King, a divided nation and the destruction of a family’s love. Set against the backdrop of a fractured country, King Lear pulls audiences through the political and emotional turmoil of a kingdom destroyed. This profound and devastatingly beautiful tale of regret is directed by Rebecca Holderness who sets the stage in 1906 Russia as the monarchy is crumbling and Lear’s world descends into madness. Despite having been written 400 years ago, King Lear continues to be a relevant meditation on the indelible connection of family and the power of redemption.
Shakespeare & Company founding member and Director of Training Dennis Krausnick takes on the role of the aging monarch. Krausnick has an extensive history with the play, which began in 1997 when he directed Olympia Dukakis in The Lear Project at Shakespeare & Company with his wife, Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer, as The Fool. This year, after playing Lear at several venues across the United States, Krausnick takes on the title role for the first time on the Company’s main stage.
The Key Players
Director of Education Kevin G. Coleman reprises his role as The Fool, which he last performed at S&Co. in 2003. Also supporting Krausnick are Company favorites Timothy Douglas (Oswald), Jonathan Croy (Gloucester), Jonathan Epstein (Earl of Kent), Kelly Galvin (Cordelia), Corinna May (Goneril), Enrico Spada (King of France), Ryan Winkles (Edgar), and Kristin Wold (Regan). Making their Shakespeare & Company debuts are Peter Macklin (Edmund), James Read (Duke of Albany), and Bill Watson (Duke of Cornwall).
The Director’s Take
“This production uses its Russian Czarist elements to evoke a time vulnerable to revolution and invasion,” says director Rebecca Holderness. “The divide in imperialist Russia between the cloistered Czar, with rich and fertile land, and the multitude of poor provides the production with a modern and yet ancient environment to set the play in motion, helping us see this very personal and intimate story in wider terms.”
The play begins with Lear’s demand for his three daughters to articulate their love for him—the one he deems the most favorable will receive the largest portion of his kingdom. Cordelia, the youngest and Lear’s favorite, cannot “heave her heart into her mouth” and is disowned by her father. As the plot thickens, Goneril and Regan, Lear’s other daughters, emerge as sinister and guiltless over their obsession for power, and Lear is cast out into the wilderness. Desperately searching for Cordelia, Lear endures a dangerous and revelatory journey, reflecting on his faults and mistakes.
The Evolution of this Production
After directing Olympia Dukakis in The Lear Project, Krausnick worked on the part himself and performed the piece several times throughout the next decade. Krausnick’s Lear Project performances always included a talkback with the audience. “I could see that people, whether they were watching it as parents, whether they were watching it as children, or watching it as both; they ended up being hugely invested in this story,” Krausnick says. “I really started clocking that this was an elemental story.”
Dennis Krausnick founding member (Lear in King Lear, Director of Training; Board of Trustees; Summer Training Institute faculty) Krausnick played the title role in King Lear in other theaters on three previous occasions. He teaches and directs in theater programs across the country as well as designing and leading the actor-training programs for S&Co; long-time audience members will remember his adaptations of Edith Wharton’s novels performed over two decades in the Salon Theater of The Mount during Shakespeare & Company’s time there. Mr. Krausnick’s journey toward the role of Lear began nearly fifteen years ago and he is dedicating this production to the memory of his friend and colleague, Claire Reidy, who worked with him on the role for more than two years.
Rebecca Holderness sixth season (Director of King Lear) S&Co: Director Glimpses of the Moon, Valley of Decision, Choreographer As You Like It, Olivia in Twelfth Night. Director, choreographer, producer and professor, Holderness has directed or choreographed for Lincoln Center Theater and Institute, The Public Theater, and Joe’s Pub, The Culture Project 45 Bleeker, TheaterTweed/Ohio Theater, Julliard, and her own company in NYC, Burning Coal Theater, NC, Spooky Action, DC, and The Choregies D’Orange in France. Associate Professor at UWM, she is known for innovative and integrated pedagogical research, and exciting teaching.
King Lear runs from June 16 through September 1 in S&Co.’s Founders’Theatre. Tickets are $15-$95, and S&Co. offers a wide range of discount options, including discounts for groups, students, senior citizens, military, teachers and our very popular 40% Berkshire Resident Discount. To view a complete schedule, receive a brochure, or inquire about discounts, please call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353 or visit www.shakespeare.org. For customized group visits—which may include artist talkbacks, tours, and catered events—contact the Group Sales office at (413) 637-1199, ext. 132. Founders’ Theatre is hearing aid assisted and wheelchair accessible.
At a Glance
PRODUCTION: King Lear
THEATRE: Founders’ Theatre
PLAYWRIGHT: William Shakespeare
DIRECTOR: Rebecca Holderness
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Flannery Steffens & Lydia Barnett-Mulligan
CAST: Thomas Brazzle, Caroline Calkins, Kevin G. Coleman, Timothy Douglas, Jonathan Croy, Jonathan Epstein, Kelly Galvin, Dennis Krausnick, Zoë Laiz, Peter Macklin, Corinna May, James Read, Eric Sirakian, Brendan Sokler, Enrico Spada, Alex Stewart, Bill Watson, Ryan Winkles, and Kristin Wold.
COSTUME DESIGNER: Govane Lohbauer
WARDROBE: Jillian O’Connell & Ben Hover
STAGE MANAGER: Hope Rose Kelly
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGERS: Adam Blais & Leonard Luvera
SET DESIGNER: Sandra Goldmark
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Matthew Adelson
COMPOSERS: Peter Bayne & Bill Barclay
FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHER: Michael F. Toomey
FIGHT CAPTAIN: Bill Watson
VOICE & TEXT COACHING: Elizabeth Ingram & Malcolm Ingram
SOUND BOARD OPERATOR: Tyler Kieffer
LIGHT BOARD OPERATOR: Derek Bever
Saturday, June 16, 2012, 7:30 (Preview)
Sunday, June 17, 2012, 7:30 (Preview)
Friday, June 22, 2012, 7:30 (Preview)
Saturday, June 23, 2012, 7:30 (Press Opening)
Sunday, June 24, 2012, 2:00
Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 7:30
Sunday, July 1, 2012, 7:30
Thursday, July 5, 2012, 7:30
Saturday, July 7, 2012, 7:30
Sunday, July 8, 2012, 2:00
Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 7:30
Thursday, July 12, 2012, 7:30
Saturday, July 14, 2012, 2:00
Saturday, July 21, 2012, 7:30
Sunday, July 22, 2012, 2:00
Saturday, July 28, 2012, 7:30
Sunday, July 29, 2012, 2:00
Wednesday, August 1, 2012, 7:30
Saturday, August 4, 2012, 2:00
Sunday, August 5, 2012, 7:30
Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 7:30
Saturday, August 11, 2012, 2:00
Sunday, August 12, 2012, 7:30
Wednesday, August 15, 2012, 7:30
Saturday, August 18, 2012, 2:00
Sunday, August 19, 2012, 7:30 (Closing)