Lear, 3/24/10

present: Dale, Jeff B., Scott, Jeff A. Spencer

We started by looking at III.7, the “eye” scene. How does one tackle such a scene? As Jeff said, nothing any of us have done in theatre has been this depraved. And then, not to get too Monty Python about it, how the hell do you pull something like this off? How do you gouge someone’s eye out? What do you do with it once you’ve got it? Should Gloucester face downstage? Upstage?

We played with various setups, and came to no real conclusion yet. Cornwall and Regan are a fun couple indeed. Their sado-lust is horrifying in the scene. (We decided Cornwall could hand Regan the first eye, leading to a very amusing take on “One side will mock another. Th’ other too.”)

We then looked at the III.2 storm speeches, the most famous in the play. After reading through the speeches independently, we began to explore.

One of the first aspects to pop up was the tendency, the compulsion to rage “nobly.” First of all, that’s very hard to sustain. Second of all, why after two complete acts of acting like an idiotic old man, is Lear suddenly oh-so-noble? Sure, he’s been wronged, but he’s there because of his own bad behavior.

Dale pulled back from the nobility and went for the petulance, which we liked. Variations followed, culminating (just as Jeff A and Spencer arrived) in Dale’s doing the speeches with a walker. Very ludicrous.

We pushed it even further: with Jeff B as the Fool, Dale rode him piggyback and railed at the skies, dismounting only for “Here I stand your slave,” and ending by sitting on a prostrate Fool: “O ho! Tis foul!” Something very appealing, very Eastern European about it. We filed it away for future reference. It’s certainly a bold choice.

Spencer and Jeff A leapt into I.2, between Edmund and Gloucester. We noticed that if you skip Edmund’s opening monologue (which they had), the scene plays out as the setup from a comedy. Spencer and Jeff went through it again, joined by Scott as Edgar. Finally, Dale assayed Edmund, Jeff B Gloucester, and Jeff A Edgar.

Lear, 3/17/10

present: Jeff B., Scott, Dale

After our warmup, we started exploring Act I. Dale started with Kent’s I.4 opener, and we discussed ways in which a) Kent could “disguise” himself, and b) we could make sure the audience realized it was Kent to begin with. During one pass through the first part of the scene, with Dale as Kent, Scott as Lear, and Jeff as attendants, we discovered that it could be interesting if nearly everyone recognized Kent but just held up his disguise. Only Lear was blind.

When Jeff took over Lear in that scene, he played him very decrepitly, which we then explored. Our focus shifted to Lear and we pulled scenes throughout the play, from the opening to near the end, looking at how it worked if Lear were practically senile.

The opening worked very well. Everything’s going so well, they’ve finally gotten the old man, who has grown increasingly erratic in recent years, to hand over the kingdom. All the negotiations are over, he’s been talked into retirement, and the main reason for the confab is to choose Cordelia’s husband. Everything else is already settled. (We talked about having a map with the lines already drawn, for example.)

And then it all goes off the rails: Lear decides to pull his “who’s your daddy?” stunt, and the entire court is thrown into turmoil. He redraws the lines, embarrasses his daughters, and in general is a horse’s ass. In this context, we see Cordelia and Kent’s actions as desperate attempts to get him back to some kind of sanity. Goneril and Regan are justified in their alarm.

We did the “trial” scene and looked at the difficulties of making the scene work. One thing we tried was to relieve the tedium of Edgar’s nonsense by interpreting it as schizophrenic ramblings, i.e., under his breath most of the time. It would serve as “mood music” for the rest of the dialog.

We did the scene in Gloucester’s castle where the two girls confront Lear and grind him down. We marveled at the paradox in the scene, that Goneril and Regan are absolutely correct in everything they say, and that Lear is an unbearable old fool, yet we hate the girls and feel sorry for the old man.

Anything else we discovered?

Lear, 3/3/10

present: Dale, Jeff B., Scott

We warmed up via the Vocal Sequence.

We read through Act I, switching off roles, although the role of Lear kept getting shoved onto Dale. Not a lot of discussion or in-depth exploration. We did start discovering the dark humor sown here and yond in the script.

We’re doing this, folks. Get your schedules prepped for Wednesday nights.