A king for the ages

Sun 24 August 2014 by Rick Gilmore

We saw the Nittany Valley Shakespeare Company's production of "King Lear" last night at The State Theatre. It featured retiring Professor of Theatre, Charles Dumas, in the title role, and a cast of both local and regional actors.

I first encountered Lear as a high school senior. Mr. Carter was one of those high school teachers who pushed students beyond what they imagine they are capable of themselves. He challenged the class to write an essay on the theme of "nothing", one that emerges consistently throughout the play. I took the bait. My essay focused on the irony of the theme, given all that happens to Lear and his minions. Mr. Carter wanted me to look into the void and see nothingness as the focus of Lear's fear and ultimate fate. I see the void more clearly in my 50's than I did at 17.

I admire the NVSC for taking on this challenging work. There were some terrific performances. Seeing Lear for the first time, I understand more why it is so rarely performed. The story starts out with injustice and betrayal, and ends, true to form, with most of the main characters dead. We Americans like to pretend that tragedy happens to other people, usually far away. Lear reminds us otherwise; the void is unknowably near.


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