Rude Mechanicals performed “King Lear” over the weekend
Family betrayal, insanity, feuding daughters, on-stage fights, death. All of these issues and more played across the stage as the Rude Mechanicals performed William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” this weekend.
The Rude Mechanicals’ president Avery Feingold ’17 said that the play is one of Shakespeare’s longest, which presented one of the production’s largest challenges — making a play that was short enough to be enjoyable for the audience.
“The traditional script is over four hours long,” he said. “We wanted it to not be over an hour and a half, so there was a lot of cutting the script to keep just the plot and character points.”
Claire Feuille ’18, who played Lear’s eldest daughter Goneril, was responsible for choosing most of the cuts that the group made. She said that cutting the play was difficult because of how plot-heavy it is.
“We had to be really careful not to cut out plot points or parts that weren’t necessarily plot points but set them up,” she said. “We had to be really careful to keep the comprehension there for the audience.”
Peter Skow ’18, who played the title role of King Lear in the production, said that the group did a bit of cutting as they went along in rehearsal. He said that if they were working on a scene or a speech and realized it was becoming redundant, they would make the decision to cut it.
Feuille said that this process led to things such as imagery and commentary being ultimately cut. She said that this led to a loss of smaller textual character moments.
“We had to use acting to fill in the gaps we lost in the text,” she said. “We had to rely on the people to make it successful.”
Feingold said that in addition to the play’s length, its content also made staging it difficult for the group.
“There is a lot of stage combat and a lot of exposition,” he said. “That can be difficult to stage without resources, since it can get a little boring and confusing. You need a lot of props and costumes and sets, which we usually don’t use. We really needed to rely on our acting.”
He said that the group ended up using more props than they traditionally do. For the play’s major fight scene which occurs in Act I, Scene IV, the group ended up ordering swords. Feingold said that he is excited to have the opportunity to use the swords in the group’s future productions. He said that, in general, stage combat can be hard because of space and physical limitations.
Skow said that a personal challenge for him was inhabiting the body of Lear, which he described as the most challenging role he’s ever played.
“It was hard because Lear is supposed to be an 80-year-old man,” he said.
Skow said that he had to do a lot of physical and voice work in order to learn how to act the part, which was a new experience for him.
Another large challenge for the group was the physical space they inhabited while performing “King Lear.” While the group traditionally stages their productions in outdoor locations, such as the Fahey courtyard or the Kemeny courtyard, “King Lear” was performed at Kappa Delta sorority.
Feingold said that having an indoor space was a boon in some ways, because it gave the group a larger and more complete backstage area and looked more like a theater. He said, however, that the space was also not designed as a theater, which created some added challenges.
“The stage fighting was hard to do with the ceilings because we were using swords,” he said. “We had to be careful not to destroy anything.”
Skow said that another challenge was the general stage layout. The two backstage areas were not connected, so members had to enter and exit on the same side of the stage, which the group did not realize until they rehearsed in the space. Skow said that the group had to make some last minute adjustments to compensate.
Despite the challenges both in the play itself and the location, members of the Rude Mechanicals said that they were pleased with how the production turned out.
Skow said that the scene that meant the most to him was the scene where Lear dies.
“When Lear comes in, he has lost it completely,” he said. “For most of the play, he is trying to hold it back and is trying to keep himself from crying. He gets to let it all go at the end. It was really fun and really natural to do.”
Feingold said that he enjoyed the scene where the character of Edgar disguises himself as a beggar named Tom and reunites with his blinded father because of the mix of emotional and humor in the scene.
Feuille said that her two favorite scenes in the play where either the main fight scene or the scene when Edgar’s father, Gloucester, gets blinded.
Feingold said that overall he enjoyed working on “King Lear” with the rest of the group.
“We are family,” he said. “They are my favorite people. It is amazing to spend time with them.”
The Rude Mechanicals’ performances were on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Kappa Delta sorority house.