A new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” seeks to make the famous family tragedy accessible to young theatergoers.
Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina will present the play, the second such adaptation in its “Shakespeare for All” series, at 7:30 p.m. March 21-23 and March 28-30, at Threshold Repertory Theatre, 84 Society St.
The series, which has received financial support from South Carolina Humanities, began last year with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s the brainchild of Actors’ Theatre co-founder Clarence Felder, who has appeared in many Shakespeare plays over the course of a long career.
Other plays he is adapting for the series are “The Tempest,” “As You Like It,” “Twelfth Night,” “Macbeth” and “The Winter's Tale.”
“I have chosen seven favorite plays of Shakespeare’s that reveal universal truths about humanity in ways that are not found elsewhere,” Felder said in a statement. “I have shaped them for the greatest accessibility to the most exquisite poetry (and) prose, the most incisive observations of human behavior, both good and bad, as well as the best wit and humor.”
He said he hopes to inspire people to experience Shakespeare’s work, whether on the page or in the theater.
The setting of the new adaptation of “Lear” is on contested land in the American West. “King” Lear is the English ruler of thousands of acres, a man who has profited from the fur trade and who has decided to let his three daughters and their husbands govern the territory. He is not prepared for what happens.
David Loar, a veteran of Shakespeare’s plays, stars as Lear. He said the new version of “King Lear” is welcomed.
“One of the beauties of Clarence Felder’s adaptations is he trims out repetitious speeches and scenes, leaving some of the best poetry and a lean plot that drives forward continuously,” Loar said in a statement. “His adaptations can be performed in 90-120 minutes, an ideal length for today’s audiences.”
He added that, since few of the plays are set in England, there’s no reason why they must always be presented as quintessentially English.
“Setting the plays in American contexts, as Mr. Felder does, makes them new, gives them rich new resonances, and can make a modern, American audience feel that the plays also belong to us, not only to the citizens of a foreign culture who lived 500 years ago,” Loar said.
The production is recommended for people age 12 and up. It is co-directed by Felder and Actors’ Theatre co-founder Chris Weatherhead.
South Carolina Humanities scholars Glenn James, Alexia Helsley, Damon Fordham and Amy McCandless will join Felder for three planned seminars in underserved counties in the Lowcountry after the show’s run.
Ticket are $15-$25, available at www.ActorsTheatreOfSC.org.