Why present an all-female production of KING LEAR? Revolution Shakespeare’s director lays down a persuasive case ahead of their reading

The Daughters of King Lear - James Archer

The Daughters of King Lear – James Archer

On Monday, May 12, 2014 (the day after Mother’s Day), upstart local Shakespeare company Revolution Shakespeare will present a staged reading of the Bard’s classic KING LEAR. The reading’s director, Samantha Bellomo, resident director of the People’s Light & Theatre Company, tells Phindie what excites her about the decision to give the reading an all-female cast.

In KING LEAR, women can be painted as emasculating, disloyal, promiscuous, and the root of all the problems in the world. Indeed, King Lear rails against the sexuality of women in his madness.

“Down from the waist they are centaurs, though women all above. But to the girdle do the god’s inherit, beneath is all the fiends”
(4.6.121-3)

Lear is not the only one. At times we all dismiss behavior as female or male. We jump to conclusions, quit listening, and make excuses for behaviors based on gender. We create gender stereotypes that get in the way of our ability to understand and empathize with others.

What will we discover when KING LEAR is released from the constraints of gender?

Revolution Shakespeare King Lear

Nancy Boykin as Lear and Cheryl Williams as Gloucester.

An all-female cast will allow all of us all to see past our own gender prejudices and discover the heart of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR. An all-female cast demands that we investigate how the themes of power, reconciliation and natural order play on us all, regardless of our gender. It asks us to excavate the true motivations of all of the characters and to shift the way that characters, behaviors and cultural assumptions are embodied in the story.

In directing Revolution Shakespeare’s all-female staged reading of the piece, I look forward to exploring:

  • Relationships between a mother and her daughters. (Lear and Gloucester)
  • Competition between women
  • Reconciliation between women
  • Struggles of women in power
  • How women battle against nature

I am also thrilled to work with the strong female actors in Philadelphia (including Nancy Boykin as Lear and Cheryl Williams as Gloucester). Shakespeare does not write many strong roles for women, particularly for older women. This all-female LEAR is a vital opportunity for women to work on complex Shakespearean roles and break open gender stereotypes.

[Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street] May 12, 2014, revolutionshakespeare.org.

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