Kansas City Actor’s Theatre and UMKC Theatre Prepare “King Lear”

Kansas City Actor’s Theatre, with the help of UMKC Theatre, are in final preparations for Shakespeare’s “King Lear” with Theodore Swetz in the titular role, which will begin performances on October 13th. “King Lear,” similar to Kansas City Actors Theatre’s recently-closed production of Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind,” is a family drama at its core, but with a sharp Shakespearian twist.

“King Lear” follows the King of Britain as he and his subjects face personal and political fallout after his decision to divide up his kingdom among his daughters does not go as planned. Lear is forced to re-examine everything he knows as he and the rest of the characters come face-to-face with their true natures. Theodore Swetz, UMKC acting professor and student of famed acting teacher Stella Adler, takes on the role of Lear, with many of his students filling in the wide cast of supporting characters whose stories unfold over the course of the play.

The production represents a co-production not only between Kansas City Actors Theatre and UMKC Theatre, but also between directors Ryan Artzberger and Tony-award winner Ed Stern. Earlier this year designers and cast members met with Ed Stern and started work on the look and feel of the production. Following unforeseen circumstances, Ryan Artzberger was asked to step in as the director of the play before rehearsals began, and as he bravely took over, a script, a cast, and design were all presented to him to carry forward. The cast was simultaneously nervous and excited. Ken Sandberg, a UMKC Graduate student playing the role of Albany and serving as the fight choreographer, says he was, “Excited, because a last-minute change would mean we were exploring the play along with the director as he found his way through it.”

Ken Sandberg

Shakespeare already requires more work than many other plays and this is an especially dense text that requires specific focus on meaning, but Sandberg says that a map is there for those who search for it. “‘King Lear’ is a big play, but fortunately Shakespeare gives his actors everything they need,” he says. “It’s all there. Putting a bunch of extra ideas on it just confuses and muddles the storytelling.”

Masterfully adjusting to the difficulties of producing live theatre, Theodore Swetz, Mark Robbins, Logan Black and Peggy Friesen, along with UMKC Graduate and Undergraduate students have put in the work, and are nearly ready to present William Shakespeare’s amazing drama, “King Lear”.

Buy tickets to see the powerful performances of these actors in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” which will perform only nine times from October 13th to October 22nd at the Spencer Stage in the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center on UMKC’s campus. Visit www.kcactors.org or call the Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222 for more information and tickets.

–Malcolm Gibbs

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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