(LENOX, Mass.) – Shakespeare & Company founding member and director of training Dennis Krausnick takes on the demanding role of the aging monarch, King Lear, in the play of that title, being given an experimental treatment set in 1906 Russia in Shakespeare & Company’s Founders’ Theatre from Saturday, June 16, through August 19, 2012.
Set against the backdrop of a fractured country, King Lear pulls audiences through the political and emotional turmoil of a kingdom destroyed. This profound and devastatingly beautiful tale of regret is directed by Rebecca Holderness, who sets the stage in 1906 Russia as the monarchy is crumbling and Lear’s world descends into madness. Despite having been written 400 years ago, King Lear continues to be a relevant meditation on the indelible connection of family and the power of redemption.
Dennis Krausnick has an extensive history with the play, which began in 1997 when he directed Olympia Dukakis in The Lear Project at Shakespeare & Company with his wife, founding artistic director Tina Packer, as The Fool. This year, after playing Lear at several venues across the United States, Krausnick takes on the title role for the first time on the Company’s main stage.
Director of education Kevin G. Coleman reprises his role as The Fool, which he last performed at Shakespeare & Company in 2003. Also supporting Krausnick are an all-star cast of company actors, including Timothy Douglas (Oswald), Jonathan Croy (Gloucester), Jonathan Epstein (Earl of Kent), Kelly Galvin (Cordelia), Corinna May (Goneril), Enrico Spada (King of France), Ryan Winkles (Edgar), and Kristin Wold (Regan).
Making their Shakespeare & Company debuts are Peter Macklin (Edmund), James Read (Duke of Albany), and Bill Watson (Duke of Cornwall).
“This production uses its Russian Czarist elements to evoke a time vulnerable to revolution and invasion,” says director Rebecca Holderness. “The divide in imperialist Russia between the cloistered Czar, with rich and fertile land, and the multitude of poor provides the production with a modern and yet ancient environment to set the play in motion, helping us see this very personal and intimate story in wider terms.”
The play begins with Lear’s demand for his three daughters to articulate their love for him — the one he deems the most favorable will receive the largest portion of his kingdom. Cordelia, the youngest and Lear’s favorite, cannot “heave her heart into her mouth” and is disowned by her father. As the plot thickens, Goneril and Regan, Lear’s other daughters, emerge as sinister and guiltless over their obsession for power, and Lear is cast out into the wilderness. Desperately searching for Cordelia, Lear endures a dangerous and revelatory journey, reflecting on his faults and mistakes.
After directing Olympia Dukakis in The Lear Project, Krausnick worked on the part himself and performed the piece several times throughout the next decade. Krausnick’s Lear Project performances always included a talkback with the audience. “I could see that people, whether they were watching it as parents, whether they were watching it as children, or watching it as both; they ended up being hugely invested in this story,” Krausnick says. “I really started clocking that this was an elemental story.”
Tickets are $15-$95, and Shakespeare & Company offers a wide range of discount options, including discounts for groups, students, senior citizens, military, teachers and 40% Berkshire Resident Discount. To view a complete schedule, receive a brochure, or inquire about discounts, call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353 or visit Shakespeare & Company. For customized group visits — which may include artist talkbacks, tours, and catered events — contact the Group Sales office at (413) 637-1199, ext. 132. Founders’ Theatre is hearing aid assisted and wheelchair accessible.