VSC's King Lear — The Storm at Home Marries Classic With Tales of Modern Aging

News   VSC's King Lear — The Storm at Home Marries Classic With Tales of Modern Aging
Virginia Stage Company is taking the world's best-known play about aging and mental deterioration — King Lear — and marrying it to intimate, modern stories about families dealing with failing parents.

VSC in Norfolk, VA, will conclude its 2006-07 season April 3-22 with the world premiere of artistic director Christopher Hanna's King Lear – The Storm at Home.

The play, directed by Hanna, "fuses Shakespeare's tragedy with authentic stories on aging and caring for the aged in today's society."

Performances play the historic Wells Theatre. April 1 is a Pay-What-You-Can performance. Opening night, after previews, is April 6.

The work is drawn from interviews with elders, families and eldercare professionals and is billed as "a powerful examination of how we care for our aging parents and loved ones."

According to VSC notes, "The production's format suggests the questions and issues facing families were no different 400 years ago than they are today. Mr. Hanna has woven stories pulled from one-on-one interviews with local families into Lear's struggle with his own daughters. The result is a dramatic look at how families are facing the emotional, legal and ethical challenges of dealing with life, love, and death." The cast includes Peter Kybart (Lear), Jeff Talbott (Son, Kent), Christopher McHale (Cornwall, Gloucester, Henry, Simon, Rod), Stephen Conrad Moore (France, Oswald, Edgar/Poor Tom, Wilson, Will), Katie Firth (Cordelia, Fool, Page, Martha), Gayton Scott (Goneril, Diane, Elaine, Penny), Amber Wood (Regan, Naomi, Barbie).

The creative team includes Patrick Mullins (assistant director), Bill Clarke (costume designer), Nelson Ruger (lighting designer), Troy Hourie (scenic designer) and Vinnie Olivieri (sound designer).

King Lear – The Storm at Home was developed over a three-year period that began with editing Shakespeare's play "to highlight its concern with dementia and elder care."

In fall 2006 VSC company members and area volunteers traveled to households, nursing homes, and professional offices across the area to gather and record interviews with a large cross section of citizens.

Family members were interviewed separately and confidentially, often allowing for dramatically contrasting accounts within and across generations. The play received a public workshop production in April 2006 that led to further follow-up interviews. The dementia and death of Hanna's own father motivated a final draft of the play over that summer. It received a public reading at VSC in December 2006.

"I hope to bring fresh insight to this final rite of passage while providing an intimate new connection to Shakespeare's greatest play," Hanna said in a statement. "This is a tremendously exciting project for me artistically and personally."

In addition to his position at VSC, Hanna has served as resident director for the Juilliard School's Drama Division and as artistic associate with the Chautauqua Theatre Company, including work by Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Ibsen and Moliere. His work with new plays has taken him from the National Theatre of Great Britain to the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. He worked on the play development staffs of London's Royal Court Theatre and the New York Shakespeare Festival.

For tickets or more information, call Ticketmaster at (757) 671-8100 or visit www.vastage.com.

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