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King Lear: The Corporate Tycoon

April 19, 2013

By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick

I saw a riveting performance this week of King Lear, presented by Theatre South Carolina. 

I am always impressed with the quality of the creative work that Jim Hunter and the faculty in Department of Theatre produce, especially as I know the budget constraints they face. But our faculty  are not only local or even regional figures in the arts.  Indeed they regularly work and perform with major production companies in New York, Washington, Seattle, various cities in Europe and in Asia.  And because of their connections and the quality of their own artistic work, they are able to attract internationally acclaimed actors and directors to the department to work with our students. 

Cristian Hadji-Culea, a prominent theatre and television director from Romania, directed this production, giving the well-known Elizabethan tale a twist. While Shakespeare's powerful language remains intact, the settings for the story have been modernized, with Lear's palace taking the form of a tycoon's headquarters, and the heath to which Lear is banished becoming an urban wasteland.

"We want the play to be more comprehensible to today's public," says the director. "To not speak about a medieval king but to speak about the society in which we are living. They can understand how a billionaire can become a beggar."

Our own renowned scenic designer, Nic Ularu created the stage sets for this production.  He  explains, "It's like what's happening in our society. You have the top and the bottom, and from top to bottom is a very large gap. We are showing this in the form of a very aseptic, corporate-looking environment contrasted with an environment where the humans and trash meld together."

Ularu, a native of Romania, has a history with the director. Both worked at the Teatrul Mic in Bucharest in the early nineties, when Hadji-Culea was director of the esteemed theatre.

Theater programs in major American research universities must teach an academic curriculum and produce a series of plays to challenge students to consider diverse values, viewpoints and expressions of the creative imagination. These programs must create a collaborative atmosphere among students and faculty not only in theory but in practice.   Working with not only our own talented faculty but visiting well-known professionals helps students to learn how to present their imaginative ideas to others but also how to adjust and be resilient in the face of constructive criticism.

See the play and consider not only its artistry but what an experience it is for students. http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/THEA/2013/lear.html

Read Previous Posts By Dean Fitzpatrick.