Sunday, January 15, 2006

This Is Not Lear

Yesterday was another non-day off for me; two hours of monologue work with Dale, and then some read-throughs of scripts which Walterdale is developing for our Evening of One Acts in May. Dale seemed off-kilter with his speeches, and he finally confessed that our recent work on 2.1 ("O reason not the need"), and our earlier work on the storm scenes had left him unsure of a lot of things regarding Lear's characterization. He's certainly got the hang of yelling at his daughters, and I think he understands that it is meant to be uncomfortable...but he didn't know where all that rage was supposed to go once he got into Act 2. "When I'm yelling at the storm," he said, "It just feels like I'm shouting up at the grid. It feels silly."

I pointed out that he still hasn't "met" his partner in this scene (Mark is supposed to bring in the storm sounds this week). But I suggested that part of the problem he was facing was distinguishing "the real Lear" from the character he has now become adept at portraying. Has Lear always been this selfish, this unstable? Regan says "He hath ever but slenderly known himself," but can we take her word for it? As I told Dale, "A character who is unpleasant and out of control right from the beginning doesn't interest me. But somebody who turns into that character is much more intriguing."

In other words, the raging "dragon" isn't the real Lear; it's "Lear's shadow," and even Lear himself must recognize it at some level. He sees himself losing control, he opens his mouth and hears all this venomous bile pour out, and his helplessness is terrifying to him. The challenge for Dale, as I explained it to him, is to find a way to show the audience that the real Lear, the human Lear, is still in there. The actor's challenge is to play both Lears at once--the violent and vituperative dragon and the scared and helpless child.

Amazingly, as early as this afternoon, Dale has started to experiment with this. When he's yelling at Goneril and Regan in 2.1, his voice is still angry, but he chokes himself off more often; and his body language is no longer aggressive, but more restrained, as if his hands are trying to find some sort of purchase as he's swept about inside his own mental storm.

And that's really the key, I think, to making the storm scenes work: the understanding that, for Lear, the storm starts several scenes earlier than it does for anyone else. He has already spent several scenes listening to peals of thunder, and fearing for his health; it's simply that the thunder has been issuing from him.


Anonymous Liz J said...

Yes, I agree that watching a transformation is much more intriguing than someone just ranting and railing.

When my Mother sees a play and doesn't like it, her usual complaint is, "Why should I care about these people?"

I think we should care about what is happening to Lear. It is clear that Edgar finds watching him to be very moving, the audience should too.

Whether we (the audience) agrees with the decisions and actions that all the characters take, in their own minds they are doing the "right" thing. This makes them interesting to watch. Isn't it part of human nature to try to get the best we can for ourselves? And isn't that what we love about the villains?

11:31 a.m.  

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