Almost 400 years after its publication, William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” continues to be studied, debated and celebrated.
Now, “Lear” and Shakespeare’s legacy will come to Miami as the Year of the Humanities presents “Shakespeare in Miami” in February. Hosted by the Center for the Humanities, “Shakespeare in Miami” will feature lectures, a Ring Theatre performance of “King Lear,” and a visit from the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
“We are doing a program around ‘King Lear’ at the Ring,” said Mihoko Suzuki, director for the Center, in an interview held in September.
Shakespeare’s “Lear” is a five-act play that portrays a ruler who misinterprets the extent of his authority and is then betrayed by his daughters. The Ring’s rendition, held from Feb. 20 to March 2, will be abridged to two hours with an intermission, according to Henry Fonte, the chair for the department of theatre arts and artistic director for the Ring.
“The play moves rapid-fire,” he said.
The choice of who would play the role of Lear was a primary concern as Lear is constantly referred to as “old.”
“You don’t want a sophomore playing Lear,” Fonte said.
Dennis Krausnick, co-founder of Shakespeare & Company in Lennox, Mass., was invited to teach acting and was then asked to play Lear. He created and developed the company’s acting training programs that are renowned internationally.
“It is, by extension, a great collaboration,” Fonte said.
Ring’s version will also be performed in an open-air configuration and with modern costuming as opposed to the traditional Renaissance style. Other theater arts professors such as Lee Soroko will aid with directing, especially the choreography of the fight scenes. Soroko is a member of the Society of American Fight Directors and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
Senior Rachel Lipman plays Goneril, the oldest of Lear’s daughters. She notes that the one of the challenges of being in a Shakespearean production is focusing on lines and analyzing them before each rehearsal.
“Unless you analyze the play’s lines beforehand, you will not understand,” she said. “At rehearsal, you can tell when someone does not know what they’re saying.”
Lipman is grateful for the chance to work with Krausnick, who dedicated his life to Shakespeare and its instruction.
“There is no better way to learn than from someone in the business,” Lipman said.
Two post-performance discussions will occur at the end of the Feb. 24 matinee show and on Feb. 26, which is the night that students can attend for free with their Cane Card. These talks will be led by professors from the English department: Anthony Barthelemy, Eugene Clasby, Pamela Hammons and Suzuki.
Before “Lear” opens its curtains, however, two visiting speakers will bridge past and present perspectives of Shakespeare. Gail Kern Paster, the director emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Delpha Charles, a UM alumna who published “A Caribbean Accent to Shakespeare’s Voice,” will both give presentations.
“Paster will talk about different images of Lear and different interpretations,” Suzuki said.
Folger contains the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare material. Paster helped make these materials more available, according to the Center’s website. Paster will have discussions on Feb. 13 and 14 at the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) Gallery and Richter Library, respectively.
Charles’ lecture will be held at the CAS Gallery at 5 p.m. Thursday. Her book is a memoir about her experiences growing up in the Caribbean, but written through the language of Shakespeare.
Senior Rebecca Denton, a double major in history and English, believes that Shakespeare should continue to be revisited in these new contexts.
“The Center is providing a wonderfully interdisciplinary look at a topic that is generally associated with literature alone,” she said. “A number of lectures that locate the Bard within a wider historical and social context, followed by performances of ‘Lear,’ emphasize Shakespeare’s importance to not only the literary canon, but as a part of our cultural consciousness.”
For more information and to register for these events, visit humanities.miami.edu.