Plenty to Lear at

By Alicia Ward

While the rest of the University of Calgary looks forwards, the Drama Department is often focused on the past. This year alone, the Drama Department will show two main stage plays that debuted long before they graced the University Theatre’s stage — one of which is the upcoming production of King Lear.

The director of this production, Patrick Finn, says it’s because “when something is excellent, it stays excellent.”

King Lear is acclaimed by dramaturges and actors alike for its heart wrenching story of betrayal, intrigue and family dysfunction. Finn is not alone in his belief that King Lear is not only William Shakespeare’s greatest play, but one of the best plays of all time.

“If Shakespeare is boring it’s not your fault, it’s the company’s . . . it’s the director’s fault,” says Finn, a Shakespeare buff.

Two years ago, he directed Hamlet and has been working on King Lear”s production for the last three years. Despite the lag between preparation and opening, he is still visibly excited about the production. He assures his audiences that this production will not be boring. One reason is because Finn likes to use “gender blind casting.” Even if his approach doesn’t entice you, Finn says there’s lots of action.

“There’s some really gory stuff,” says Finn. “There’s lots of fighting. It’s quite an aggressive play.”

The production also boasts an incredible story and fascinating characters that are surprisingly relatable despite high-pressure situations, and the large gulf of time passed since the play was written.

“I think when we face tremendous challenge the best parts of ourselves shine through,” says Finn. “We survive through all the various things that come up in our lives and it’s in those moments of test and of challenge and of obstacle that I think, as human beings, we show our best traits.”

The actors who will embody these characters and their challenges have a range of skill levels and ages. Professional actors and U of C alumni such as Christopher Hunt will be joining faculty and students on the stage to bring the tragic story to life. The plan was to have students learn from experienced faculty and professional actors, but Finn notes that everyone stepped up to the challenge of King Lear, even the set designers.

This production will showcase a magnificent set by Douglas McCullough and costuming that accurately represents the play’s 800 BCE setting. New to the U of C this year is April Viczko, who designed the lighting for King Lear. Finn gushes over Viczko and calls her a “bloody genius.”

“Every bit of it in there is wonderful, so watch it all,” says an exuberant Finn.

From the visuals, to the acting, to the incredible story, the play is bound to strike the right note, and audiences are in for a wonderful night of theatre.

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