First rehearsal for “King Lear”

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    "I am really excited about this show, particularly because of the people I'm seeing in this room," said Artistic Director George Mount as he welcomed the company of "King Lear" to the first rehearsal. "The cast and design team that Sheila has assembled for this is like second to none. And I think it takes a group of people of this caliber to face a play of this caliber.
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    Michael Winters, Todd Jefferson Moore and Amy Thone return to Seattle Shakespeare Company for "King Lear."
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    Debra Pralle plays the role of Regan.
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    Dan Kremer, who last appeared in "Richard II" as John of Gaunt, plays King Lear.
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    "'King Lear' was the first piece of theatre that I saw that changed me," said director Sheila Daniels. "I remember seeing it in Ashland when I was 15. It moved me to tears as a witness, and as a frightened, confused teenager, it made me say 'I want to do that. That's what I want to do for a living. I want to make people feel like this.'"
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    Jorge Chacon makes his Seattle Shakespeare Company debut as Edgar. Todd Jefferson Moore, who has frequently collaborated with Ms. Daniels, will play the Fool.
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    Linda K. Morris makes her Seattle Shakespeare Company debut in the role of Goneril.
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    Jonathan Crimeni, seen last year in 'Love's Labour's Lost' and Wooden O's 'The Tempest' plays the King of France. Sophie Paterson is a recent Cornish College graduate making her professional debut.
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    Michael Winters, last seen on our stage in "The Tempest" in 2009, plays the role of Gloucester. Michael recently played King Lear at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last year.
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    "Lear" is a play that fractures into smaller and smaller pieces every few minutes on stage. There's no stopping once the first crack appears," said Daniels. "Even up to the last moment. There are five lines, maybe at the end, where it feels like the earth has stopped shaking at the end."
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    In explaining the set design to the company, scenic co-designer Craig Wollam said there would be many shifting layers and changing perspectives throughout the play. "The point is for there to be large images and gestures which alter our perspective, but that they won't take a long time to create on stage."
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    "I read this play and cry. I read this play and laugh. I read this play and I'm furious," said Daniels. "I wanted the design to be evocative, for sure, but extremely simple."
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    Music and sound designer Rob Witmer wrote several songs for the play that the Fool will sing. Actors will also be creating many of the sound effects, including the storm. "The storm will be scored with actors playing various instruments...drums, shakers, thundersheets, and actually be a part of the scene," said Witmer.
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    "Sheila and I came up with an anachronistic design for this play," said costume designer Melanie Burgess. "We are using the contemporary silhouette of East Indian and Islamic clothing, and then that is pushed through a medieval lens." Although the play won't be set in East India, the look is intended to transport the audience out of a contemporary Western vernacular.
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    King Lear.
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    Goneril.
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    Regan.
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    Cordelia.
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    Gloucester.
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    Fool.
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    Edgar.
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    Edmund.
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    Kent.
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    Albany.
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    Cornwall.
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    King of France.

Seattle Shakespeare Company completes its 2013-2014 indoor season this spring with Shakespeare’s tragedy of a family and country splintered by misrule and pride — King Lear directed by Sheila Daniels.

The ultimate family drama matched by intense political intrigue, King Lear traces an aging monarch’s descent into madness. Weary of his royal duties, King Lear elects to distribute his lands among his three daughters. But sweet falsities and hubris blind Lear to the true motives of those around him, scorching king and kingdom to ashes with consequences that unearth the worst and best in human nature.

King Lear is the first piece of theatre that I saw that changed me,” said Daniels at the first rehearsal for the production. “I remember seeing it in Ashland when I was 15.  It moved me to tears as a witness, and as a frightened, confused teenager it made me say ‘I want to do that. That’s what I want to do for a living. I want to make people feel like this’” Daniels related to the cast how Lear differs from Shakespeare’s other great tragedy, Hamlet, in that it gives so much depth to so many characters. Twelve of the characters in King Lear have extended developmental journeys in the play. She used the metaphor of a mirror cracking, saying that the play fractures into smaller and smaller pieces every few minutes on stage. “This play never stops, even up to the last moment. There are five lines, maybe at the end, where it feels like the earth has stopped shaking at the end.”

Daniels returns to Seattle Shakespeare Company having previously directed productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Electra, Much Ado About Nothing (Wooden O), and Pericles. Most recently she directed The Normal Heart for Strawberry Theatre Workshop.  She was on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts for 10 years and currently teaches at Lakeside’s Upper School.

This is production marks Dan Kremer’s second production of King Lear having previously played the title role with Utah Shakespeare Festival in 2007. Michael Winters, who recently played King Lear at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2013, will play the part of Gloucester. Linda K. Morris (Goneril), Debra Pralle (Regan), and Elinor Gunn (Cordelia) make their Seattle Shakespeare Company debuts.

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