For several years, a highlight of our annual Ashland trip had been Barry's talk to our group. When we saw "Romeo and Juliet" he shared his enormous working script, which had three different versions of the text (two folios and one quarto) laid out side by side. As dramaturge for the production, he had used this script to help the director make choices about the text before going into rehearsals. When we saw "Cyrano de Bergerac," Barry delighted us by bringing in a globe of the moon, so he could show us the crater named for the French dreamer on its dark side.
Barry is a born teacher whose passions include chess, go, astronomy (in particular eclipses) and passing on his enthusiasms to students young and old. When we found out, over lunch following one of his talks to our Ashland group, that he was keen to take on the role of King Lear, we immediately starting planning how to make the production happen at Marin Shakespeare Company.
And we were sure glad we did! Barry's performance was magnificent, detailed, vastly intelligent, passionate, and moving. He was ably supported by a wonderful cast; in particular, Matthew Henerson as the Fool was a stand out. The company braved record heat waves and Barry (who had trained for months for the final scene when Lear carries in Cordelia's dead body) was the loudest voice saying "the show must go on" at what was a terribly hot matinee performance in what we called "Al Gore weather."
Barry has since moved to San Rafael and so Marin is a far richer place for Shakespeare lovers now. We look forward to his continued participation as a teacher and actor with Marin Shakespeare Company.
From the Playbill - Director's Notes:
King Lear, one of the last of Shakespeare's great tragedies (1605), is often referred to as the Everest of dramatic art. In some eras it has been the forbidding peak that few producers wished to climb. Being steeped in antithesis after 17 years of studying and staging Shakespeare's plays, I propose a new metaphor...King Lear is the lowest achievement of great dramatic literature, the Death Valley, if you will, of literature. It is a work so bleak, so unrelenting in its cruelty and sorrow that for much of the past 400 years it has either been avoided or amended to a happier ending.
Children betray and plot against parents, siblings kill each other, subjects rebel against sovereigns, and the natural order is overturned, distorted, and tattered. We are witnesses to hubris, pandering, lying, betrayal, ingratititude, greed, lust, adultery, torture, stabbings (front, back and self), poisoning, attempted and realized suicide, eye-gouging and hangings...not exactly a laugh riot.
So why should we go so low? Well, remembering George Mallory's comment on Everest: "Because it's there." Certainly if our Bard had not penned this disturbing, immense, and profound masterpiece we could all, perhaps, rest a little easier. But not only is the play "there," but so too are the human impulses to baseness in us all. It is Lear's redemption that gives us hope for ourselves - the lessons about his humanity he learns through the insanity of his inner and outer storms.
We cannot fail to recognize Lear's greatheartedness, his huge generosity of spirit which both fires his love and his ridiculous demands for love in return. Every old man, observed Goethe, is King Lear, exorcised by nature itself.