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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?