Cal Lu presents: King Lear, with a twist



Julia Weiss dressed in full costume for her role as Queen Lear. She originally auditioned for the male role of King Lear, but director Michael Ardnt decided a Queen Lear would be more fitting.

Joslyn Buckley, Reporter

California Lutheran University’s Theatre and Dance Department presents: Lear, via Zoom. The play, written by William Shakespeare, will be directed by Michael Arndt, chair and professor of Cal Lutheran’s Theatre Arts and Dance Departmentand won’t feature a King Lear, but a Queen. 

In a Zoom interview, Julia Weiss, Cal Lutheran junior said she originally auditioned to play the male role. However, Arndt made the creative decision to change the character to Queen Lear.

Arndt said in an email interview that he was interested in the relationship between mother and daughter as opposed to father and daughter.

“The interesting dynamic of Lear as a mother with her older daughters creates dramatic opportunities for the actors,” Ardnt said.

He also said the role has been played by multiple talented women and he wanted to provide more opportunities for women within Cal Lutheran’s theatre department. He said he was impressed with Weiss’ approach to the role.

Lear is an epic tragedy. It’s a story about how cruel we can be to those we love, or at least are supposed to love,” Will Peña, Cal Lutheran senior and supporting character in the play said in an email interview.

The plot of the play can be summarized as a queen making poor decisions, experiencing family drama and learning who within her circle can be trusted, Rachel Johnson, Cal Lutheran senior and supporting character in the play said in a Zoom interview.

“One of the themes of the story is that you only see when you have no eyes and you only love when you lose it,” Weiss said in a Zoom interview.

Beyond gender-bending the lead, Cal Lutheran’s rendition will have a slightly altered setting.

In aim to work with, rather than against the Zoom format, the play takes place in space, Weiss said.

“We’re embracing the technological side and it makes sense for us to be in this futuristic outer space world where our only sense of communication is via tablet. And we’re all on our different planets,” Weiss said.

Johnson said it has been an adventure and they have faced various challenges in the virtual format during the production process.

“When you just don’t have lines, it’s a little more awkward knowing what to do… it’s that idea of constantly having to be aware that someone might be looking at you,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said it has been hard being able to only hear each other and not interact with her peers in person.

“It’s tough to create that strong connection on Zoom, but it’s not impossible. We’ve been working on our active listening skills so we can respond naturally, like we would on stage,” Peña said.

Weiss agreed and said it is hard to convey the human connection that actors normally emulate in theatre.

Peña said a positive side to this is “on camera, you can have intimate moments alone, right up with the screen… The audience gets to be right up close with the action, hearing every whisper and aside.”

Johnson said the screens will be rotated to appear more natural for the audience and the actors have been given equipment to set up in their homes.

“We’re doing things that we would never be able to do if we were in-person so that’s been really fun, but at the same time there are definitely new skills that we’re having to learn,” Johnson said.

The show will be performed live on Nov. 13-14 and 20-21. The shows will be broken down into “episodes,” only showing a part of the play each night, not the play in its entirety. This is an effort to help prevent Zoom fatigue. After each live show, the recording will be posted on the Theatre and Dance Department website.

“We’re doing this as a series of 30-40 minute episodes! So if you’re not keen on sitting through two and a half hours of Shakespeare, that won’t be the case for this show!” Peña said.

Both the live performances and recording links will be posted on the Theatre and Dance Department website. All performances are free.

“It’s Shakespeare, so there are moments of great comedy and action. But it all comes back to that family, betrayal, and love,” Peña said.