California Shakespeare Theater presents the world premiere of Lear, Obie-winning playwright Marcus Gardley's modern verse translation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, officially opening September 14 following previews that began September 7 in the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater.
Co-directed by Cal Shakes Artistic Director Eric Ting and Aurora Theater Company Associate Artistic Director Dawn Monique Williams, performances will continue through October 2. The production is infused with live jazz music accompaniment composed by SF Jazz Resident Artistic Director Marcus Shelby.
Starring James A. Williams as Lear, the cast also includes Michael J. Asberry as Gloucester, Emma Van Lare as Regan, Dov Hassan as Cornwall, Sam Jackson as Cordelia/The Comic, Leontyne Mbele-Mbong as Goneril, Cathleen Riddley as Kent, Kenny Scott as Albany, Jomar Tagatac as Edmund, Dane Troy as Edgar, and Velina Brown as Black Queen.
Set in San Francisco’s Fillmore District from the eminent domain crisis through to the subsequent displacement of the 1960s, Lear is Gardley’s deconstruction of the classic story of power, betrayal, and madness.
"Translating King Lear was a dream as it is my favorite Shakespearean drama,” said Oakland native Gardley in an earlier statement. “I am elated to be able to share this timeless story with the Bay Area and to have two of my favorite directors at the helm—Eric Ting and Dawn Monique Williams. We have the honor of presenting this epic and placing it in The Bay at a pivotal time in our community's history. The Bay Area is the perfect location for Lear because of themes concerning class, the wealth gap, and the importance of family, community, and legacy. I am certain that audiences will have an incredible time experiencing Lear. It has been a long time since black odyssey, and it's great to be back home doing another classic!"
The production also has scenic design by Tanya Orellana, costume design by Lux Haac, wigs, hair, and makeup design by Cherelle Guyton, lighting design by Scott Bolman, sound design by Elton Bradman, fight direction by Dave Maier, intimacy direction by Jeunée Simon, and casting by the Casting Collective. Wesley Apfel is the stage manager, Christina Hogan is the assistant stage manager, Brandon Yang is the production assistant, Haley Miller is the production manager, and Philippa Kelly is the dramaturg with Nina M. Fay as the COVID safety manager and understudy ensemble director.
Gardley is a 2019 Obie winner for The House That Will Not Stand. Other plays include X or the Nation v Betty Shabazz, black odyssey, The Gospel of Loving Kindness, Every Tongue Confess, …and Jesus moonwalks the Mississippi, and The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry. His feature adaptation of The Color Purple musical will be released in December 2023, and his Marvin Gaye biopic was just picked up by Warner Brothers.