The Louisville Cardinal

U of L Theater Arts Department to show “King Lear”

By Shelby Brown–

The University of Louisville Theater Arts Department and Commonwealth Theatre Center are collaborating to produce William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” at U of L’s historic Playhouse theater.

The play depicts the old king’s descent into madness after he divides his kingdom among his daughters based on how they flatter him.

U of L’s Baron Kelly will be playing King Lear. Kelly has been acting for over 30 years. Some of his experience comes from the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada, Edinburgh Theatre Festival, California Shakespeare Festivals, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Shakespeare Theatre Company.

“It’s climbing up a mountain,” said Kelly about getting the role.

Artistic director at Commonwealth Theatre Center, Charlie Sexton, will play the Earl of Gloucester. Artistic associate, Jennifer Pennington, will direct.

“Baron Kelly is a professional actor who is skilled in interpreting classic roles. Producing King Lear presented an excellent opportunity for our students to work on this rarely done production side by side with a mentor of national stature,” Theater Arts Chair Nefertiti Burton said.

“Our colleagues at CTC have been creative, generous and patient as we worked out all the kinks in the process. We hope to continue to collaborate with them on other projects,” Burton said.

King Lear is running in part with Will in the Ville, an arts, education and culture celebration 400 years after Shakespeare’s death.

The collaboration is headed by Frazier History Museum, U of L and the Louisville Free Public Library.

“Shakespeare was one of the great manipulators of human language. His use of words and his creation of new words and expressions can stimulate the creativity of young writers and artists of all types to refuse to be limited by what is, to break through boundaries and invent something new and beautiful,” Burton said.

The Will in the Ville celebration brings with it the “First Folio! The Book that Gave us Shakespeare,” a traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s first published collection of his plays. Kelly is most looking forward to the exhibit.

“I’ve always just loved history. I love watching the Antiques Roadshow. I love that stuff. It’s important. Today, it’s a little bit more than just pressing a button a computer to look, and to touch, perhaps, to see the things that did exist,” Kelly said.

Both Burton and Kelly agreed that “King Lear” still has relevant themes for the 21st century.

“A large theme is the plight of the aged and how people who deal with issues of dementia are dealt with by their children, or how certain children will deal with the aged,” Kelly said.

“‘King Lear’ speaks to the disintegration of family, community, and nation. At this time in our country’s deliberations about what kind of society we want to be. ‘King Lear’ offers vital lessons about the necessity of good leadership, thoughtful planning and a unified vision,” said Burton.

“The performing arts are a living testament to the need for human interaction on an on-going basis,” Burton said.

King Lear will run Nov. 10-14 and 17-20 at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $15, Faculty, seniors, non-U of L students and alumni pay $12 and U of L students pay $8.