University of Louisville Theatre Arts Department and Commonwealth Theatre Center have joined together to co-produce William Shakespeare’s epic tragedy “King Lear” Nov. 10-20 in UofL’s historic Playhouse.
This unique collaboration gives students the opportunity to learn from each other and from the talented, world-class theatre educators at both organizations.
Baron Kelly, associate professor and head of acting at UofL, will play the role of King Lear. Kelly is a four-time Fulbright Scholar, critic, historian, scholar and practitioner with numerous international credits in modern and classic productions. His Broadway credits include “Salome” with Al Pacino, “Electra” with the late Colleen Dewhurst, King Arthur in “Camelot,” The King in the 50th anniversary production of “The King and I” and Belize in the World Premiere of “Angels in America.”
“King Lear” is one of the most challenging plays in the classical canon, so much so that it’s often referred to as the Mount Everest of acting.
Kelly promised the cast and crew has pulled out all the stops to make this version as unforgettable as possible.
“This is the University of Louisville’s version of Broadway’s ‘Hamilton,'” Kelly said.
Charlie Sexton, artistic director at CTC, will play the Earl of Gloucester. A number of students from UofL and CTC will play supporting roles and Jennifer Pennington, artistic associate at CTC, is directing the production.
Sexton said he met Kelly in 2015 and the two have discussed ways to collaborate ever since. This production is the first such undertaking, but possibly not the last.
“We hope to continue our partnership, perhaps developing a mentorship exchange between UofL and Walden students and giving UofL students the opportunity to appear in productions with the professional company-in-residence at CTC,” Sexton said. “I also hope the experience will broaden the audience for both institutions.”
The show is an official part of Will in the Ville, the city-wide collaboration of more than 45 arts, cultural and educational organizations celebrating all things Shakespeare before the arrival of the national traveling exhibit, “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.”
The tragedy depicts King Lear’s gradual descent into madness, after he disposes of his kingdom giving bequests to two of his three daughters based on their flattery of him, bringing tragic consequences for all.
“I love that it’s such a huge, sweeping tale, but it’s also as suburban as it is universal. The nature of fathers with their sons and daughters hits home for so many people,” Pennington said. “We have attacked this wonderful story from the perspective of Lear’s mind. As if upon walking into the theater you have stumbled through a doorway that led into his brain, seeing through his eyes, sort of a ‘being King Lear’ approach. The world the audiences sees deteriorates as the King’s mind goes.”
The Playhouse is on UofL’s Belknap Campus, 1911 S. Third St. “King Lear” runs Nov. 10-14 and 17-20 starting at 8 p.m. with 3 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for faculty, alumni, seniors and non-UofL students and $8 for UofL students. To order tickets or for more information, call the box office at 502-852-6814 or click here.