King Lear to address family values, political turmoil

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November 8, 2018
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November 8, 2018

King Lear to address family values, political turmoil

Aging King Lear divides the kingdom among his three daughters. Photo: Abby Anglea

King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies, will be performed on campus next week as part of the Concert, Drama & Artist Series.

This five-act play will be shown in Rodeheaver Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Nov. 15, 16 and 17. 

William Shakespeare wrote the tragedy in England between the years of 1604 and 1606. Originally set in a pre-Rome, ancient Celtic period, the play features an aging king who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.

However, through a series of events involving misinterpretation, banishment, lies and betrayal, King Lear and his family experience ruin.

David Schwingle, a faculty member in the theatre arts department and director for this production said, “[The play is about] a king nearing the end of his reign, but instead of just finishing strong, he decides to abdicate.” Ron Pyle, head of the theatre arts department, will  take the title role as the protagonist, King Lear. 

The drama’s climax occurs at the beginning of Act 3, when King Lear is caught in a storm. This moment is very symbolic, as it incites a downward spiral in the king’s mental health.

Weather plays an important role in this act and in several others, as it is used to symbolize and parallel the characters’ mental and emotional states.   Jeff Stegall, a faculty member in the theatre arts department, designed the costumes and sets for the production, basing his ideas on Edwardian England style.

In addition to reworking the costume design, Stegall adjusted the setting to fit the play’s plot.

Stegall  first changed the time period in 2005 when he orginally directed the play.     

Although Shakespeare set the play in England during the eighth century B.C., Stegall decided to set the story in Russia during its industrial revolution, which took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

One of the reasons Stegall chose Russia as the location was because of the political turmoil the characters in Shakespeare’s play experience.

As Pyle said, “[The setting] pictures the feeling that these people are caught like cogs in a machine.”

Another reason Stegall changed the setting is because he recognized the crucial role property plays in the story. Throughout the play, the characters compete for King Lear’s kingdom. Since Russia has much more property than England, Stegall thought it would be fitting for the play to be set there, giving the characters much more land to fight over.

As is characteristic of Shakespearean plays, King Lear exemplifies several themes.

Pyle said one theme is change and how to cope with it. A primary question the play addresses is, “How do you bring about change without destroying everybody and everything?” 

A few other themes include conditional and unconditional love, responsibility, family, control and the abuse of power. 

The cast for King Lear is made up of both faculty members and students. Several senior theatre arts majors are involved in the play for their senior capstone project.

Tickets may be purchased online at bju.universitytickets.com. An 11-page guide, written primarily for attendees of Tuesday’s Sharing Masterworks of Art performance, is available on the university website.

This document explains some of the key motifs in the play and describes the main events of the plot.