The University of Indianapolis Department of Theatre students, accompanied by UIndy alumni, performed William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” Oct. 23-25 and 29-31.
King Lear, played by former theatre department chair and associate professor Jim Ream, is the title role of the famous Shakespearean play set in Tutor-Era Britain.
The play is about an elderly king named Lear who decides he will end his reign and split power among his three daughters, Cordelia (senior Elise Delap,) Goneril (senior Morgan Jackson) and Regen ( alumna Jenni White), giving the largest piece of land to the daughter who professes her love for him the most.
When Cordelia does not shower Lear with flattery, he banishes her from the kingdom and splits power between Regan and Goneril, which leads to the events that later will leave Lear and his three daughters dead.
Associate Professor and Theater Department Chair Brad Wright focused on the students and alumni in the play.
“One of our faculty members, Jim Ream, who was chair of this department for almost 20 years and has been in the university for over 40, was interested in playing King Lear before he retired,” Wright said. “One of the big challenges of the play is that it has a lot of men in it. And so we thought [that] if we’re going to do this production with Jim playing the lead character, wouldn’t it be cool if we could get other alumni to come back and participate in the production.”
Delap said that “keeping modern situations Shakespearean really helps the audience get what’s going on.” Delap said when she was cast for the role, she realized the similarities she and Cordelia have.
“My own life circumstance and having those instances where all you want is to have someone love and care for you. And when you’re shut down, how do you cope with that? How do you build yourself back up? And also, how do you forgive?” Delap said. “In the end, Cordelia does forgive, so she has to learn how to be able to be strong enough to say, ‘I forgive you, Father.’ ”
During rehearsals, Delap worked particularly hard on how her character was being portrayed.
“A lot of what we worked on in the rehearsal process is that sometimes Cordelia can sometimes come off as a weak character,” Delap said. “Sometimes that can translate to weakness. But we worked a lot on building Cordelia’s strength and finding moments where she has so much strength and power—and also that strength translating to love—because she’s the only one that does truly love her father.”
Ream said he has alway had a passion for playing the role of King Lear. He appreciates the faithfulness that comes from characters throughout the play.
“I’m fascinated by it. I have been on many different levels. And one of them is the whole subject matter and the dichotomy that exist in the play between truth and reality,” Ream said. “From my own perspective, having raised three kids, there is an element of fascination with that whole parenting thing.”
Ream said he also has an understanding of how parents and children feel about one another.
“To a parent, children are never thankful enough. And you feel like you give them everything, and they just suck you dry. It’s easy to take that attitude,” he said. “So it’s kind of fun to approach it from the parenting side, because Lear really messes it up. And even though his kids were not very nice to him, he was pretty rotten himself.”
Wright said having the alumni participate added diversity to the usual student-performed plays.
“One of my favorite parts is seeing the alumni back together again. Its been interesting seeing them and trying to remember who went to school with whom,” Wright said. “It’s also been fun to watch the current students integrate into that. I’ve really encouraged the current students to watch and pay attention to the alumni and use them as role models.”
Alumni included Kirk Fields, Lucy Fields, Barry McFarlane, Jennette McFarlane, Nathan Pellow and Daryl Hollonquest.
The Department of Theatre will present next the Student Directed Productions. According to the UIndy Department of Theatre website, the SDPs are designed by students and fully staffed by students. The SDPs will take place on Dec. 4-6 and Dec. 10-12, all starting at 8 p.m. The productions will be held in the Studio Theatre, located in the basement of Esch Hall.