Past Meetup

Read: The Tragedy of King Lear

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Come let's away to prison,
We two alone will sing like Birds i'th' Cage:
When thou dost aske me blessing, Ile kneele downe
And aske of thee forgiuenesse: So wee'l liue,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded Butterflies[.]
The Tragedie of King Lear, First Folio of Shakespeare (lines 2949-2954)

NOTE: Invitation is for readers from the attendees of the readthroughs for either Coriolanus or A Midsummer Night’s Dream; all others are welcome as auditors. A second readthrough of King Lear will be scheduled for Saturday afternoon, August 3, 2013, if there is interest.

“Lear is not a play of the intellect -- it’s a visceral, primal, howling play, perfectly constructed to mine the complexity of human relationships and to illuminate our great need for them.” Director’s Note, Seattle Shakespeare Company, King Lear, 2004

Since Green Stage is producing King Lear this summer for free performances in the parks around Puget Sound, I proposed it for a readthrough to give our wonderful organizer, Nancy, a break. This will fill in the unusual three-week interval between our regularly scheduled readthroughs around the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival, when Shakespeare is onstage. Before committing to organizing it, I asked Brian Gaffikin if he would be interested in reading Lear with us. At the last two readthroughs, I asked if there would be interest in reading King Lear before the Festival performance of July 14, 2013 at 2:00 p.m., and there were around twelve people, who expressed an interest. I kept the location at Volunteer Park on bus route 10, rather than the arboretum, because of the breeze on the hill. Please know that we are not guaranteed picnic tables, but we have been lucky in the past, when a few of us arrive around 12:30 p.m. If you would like a chair and have a portable one, please bring it along.

My idea for the arrangements for a King Lear readthrough is informed, in part, by what Toni and I were taught last year in the master class given by Rodney Cottier, director of the drama program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Thus I think it best that we not split the parts of Lear or Gloucester, both of whom are of similar ages. Another reason is that our group has grown, and at times we have so many attendees, that for some, reading is reduced to a few lines or nothing (e.g. me at The Tempest and Twelfth Night). Some of us endure commutes of two to two and one-half hours, from as far as Everett or Gig Harbor or farther, and we come to read. I would like to keep the cast to a maximum of fifteen, if at all possible. We will divide Kent and Edgar (the latter is trickier), if necessary, to accommodate our group. They both go through transformations, which the voices of different readers may well accentuate.

I would like to invite anyone, who attended the readthroughs of either Coriolanus or A Midsummer Night’s Dream to attend as readers. Please RSVP if you are coming, but also change the RSVP, if you cannot make it, so that we have a good idea of our cast. Everyone else is, of course, welcome as well. If enough people emailed me (by clicking on my icon of maple leaves) about their interest in forming a second group (perhaps for a total of twenty-two to twenty-four or more) to read in the park that afternoon, I would facilitate that. However, that would be really challenging, even if parts were assigned ahead of time. It should take three hours just to read the play.

Rather I would like to offer to host a second readthrough of King Lear on the afternoon of Saturday, August 3, 2013, if there is interest, or on another day if that date will not work. For those, who hold King Lear as their favorite, reading a different part at another readthrough is no problem at all. Discovery Park would be a beautiful place - the stage is set before a sloped hillside - to see King Lear on August 4 at 3:00 p.m. Lincoln Park in West Seattle on August 17 at 3:00 p.m. would be great as well. It is a beautiful spot on the C bus line, and it offers some shade and no hills to climb, except to get to the beach afterwards for dinner and gorgeous views.

I would like to request that, if you have time before our readthrough, please check the section of your source material, where notes about the text are made. Often the book or other source material for your script will discuss the differences between the various quarto and folio versions of The Tragedy of King Lear, and how most editors in certain centuries conflated the texts. I read that all movie versions of King Lear used a conflated text. The director of the upcoming performance of King Lear is also using a conflated text. Cottier, a Shakespeare scholar, teaches that the First Folio of Shakespeare is the definitive King Lear. (line numbers added by editors).

Although there is no cast list in the First Folio, one concept for division of the characters for 15 readers could be as follows, although it is not absolute:

Lear, King of Britain
Earl of Gloucester
Earl of Kent
*Kent (reader 1: Act I.i at palace of Lear; Act Act IV.iii with Gentleman, IV.vii with Cordelia in French Camp; Act V.iii in British Camp)
*Kent (reader 2: Act I.i, I.iv, I.v at Goneril’s; Act II.ii, II.iv at Gloucester’s; Act III.i, III,ii, III.iv, on the heath)
Edgar, son of Gloucester
*Edgar (reader 1: Act I.ii; Act II.i, II.iii (at Gloucester’s); Act with Gentleman, with Oswald, letter (~ lines 251-273 “Let’s see these pockets ... That of thy death and business I can tell.”); V.i with Albany in British Camp, V.iii in British camp)
*Edgar (reader 2: Act III.iv,; Act IV.i, on the heath with Gloucester/Lear, including ~ line 250 “Sit you down, father; rest you.”); Act V.ii with Gloucester on the heath near British Camp)
Edmund, bastard son of Gloucester
Goneril, daughter to Lear
Duke of Albany
Regan, daughter to Lear
Duke of Cornwall
The Fool
Cordelia, daughter to Lear
Oswald, steward to Goneril
*Duke of Burgundy I.i; Curan II.i; Doctor IV.iv, IV.vii; Herald V.iii, Servant 1 III.vii; Servant 3 III.vii; Gentleman (attendant on Lear/Albany) I.v, II.iv, III.i, V.iii
*King of France I.i; Knight I.iv; Old Man IV.i; Messenger; Servant 2 III.vii; Gentleman (attendant on Cordelia) IV.ii, IV.iii,, IV.vii


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