“King Lear” Spring 2019 Tour – Entry #6

By Jonathan Dryden Taylor

“Why, oh why, oh why, oh’ sing Ruth and Eileen in Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town, ‘Why did we ever leave Ohio?’

Bernstein’s characters are lamenting their move from Ohio to New York- but maybe they just went to the wrong Manhattan? The Little Apple in Kansas has stolen a little piece of all our hearts this week after we made our own journey from Ohio.

The clear air and wide skies, the beautiful castle-style campus (visible from our hotel windows, the definition of an easy commute) the friendly welcome and the fantastic auditorium made our week in the middle of Middle America a highlight of the tour so far.

It was the first time we’ve done King Lear on a thrust stage, which had its pros and cons. The massive plus was being so close to the audience- there’s an immediacy to the communication when you have so many people almost in arm’s reach. However, we’re also very accustomed to performing the show end-on.

Having people at our sides and behind us meant we had to spend a lot of time working out how to turn our straight lines into diagonals, so that our audiences got to see us acting rather than backting. Fights had to be rejigged, as well: suspension of disbelief is all very well, but when the audience can clearly see the weapon hitting midair rather than flesh, that’s probably taking it too far.

The Chapman Theater is very well-equipped technically, too, so we were able to get a bit arty when it comes to lighting effects. Richard has put together a brilliantly adaptable LX plot which will work on any rig, but it was fun to embellish it a bit. The Chapman has a lightable cyclorama which surrounds the audience, and giving it a cold blue for the storm scene and a blood red for the final battle really added to the atmosphere.

The shows sold really well, too, which always helps. There’s something about hearing the buzz of audience chatter over a show relay which really helps focus the mind and set the adrenalin going. And thanks to a generous post-show dinner invitation from Professor Don Hedrick, we got to chat with some of them ourselves, too.

As we found in South Bend, it really is a privilege to be invited into people’s homes- and it helps with homesickness, too. It’s lovely to stay in hotels, with all mod cons and someone to make your bed for you every day if you want it, but it’s also nice to spend time somewhere lived in. A full refrigerator. Bookshelves. A row of shoes by the door. Little details of everyday life to remind us that our current day-to-day existence is thrillingly out of the ordinary.

LA next! With impeccable timing, we arrive the day after the Oscars. After a month made up pretty much of snow, snow, sleet and snow, we’re all looking forward to digging the shorts and T-shirts our from the bottom of our suitcases. See you by the pool.