University of Rochester

University of Rochester Actors Tackle Shakespeare's 400-year-old Tragedy

March 23, 2007

William Shakespeare's monumental tragedy King Lear opens Thursday, April 12, at the University of Rochester International Theatre Program's Todd Theatre on the University's River Campus.

A contemporary re-imagining of the Bard's profoundest meditation on the nature of power, family, and love, the production runs at 8 p.m. on April 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, and 28, with matinees at 2 p.m. on April 15, 21, 22, and 28.

The play, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2006, has previously been produced at the University of Rochester, but the current production is distinct in that it is the first in which a student has been cast in the title role. King Lear is considered one of the benchmark roles in any actor's career and the play, which deals with fundamental questions of what it means to be human and what it means to live fully, is perhaps Shakespeare's most poignant exploration of the limits of human mortality.

"Many of our core values as a society—family, morality, loyalty, forgiveness, and redemption—are challenged in and by this work," asserts the production's director, Nigel Maister.

Maister, the International Theatre Program's artistic director since 2002, has also created the stark set design for the production. Raised in South Africa, Maister's acting, writing, and directing career has spanned three continents and numerous media. His recent credits include directing Maxim Gorki's The Lower Depths and Peter Handke's The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at the University of Rochester, and writing the text for Paper Trails, a work written for new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound. Maister also served as narrator when the work recently received its world premiere at Carnegie Hall. Maister is Alarm Will Sound's staging director.

The production's costume designer, Jessica Gaffney, has designed for stage and film. She received her master of fine arts degree from New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. Lighting design is by Thomas Dunn, whose work has recently been seen at Yale Rep and at Bard College. The play's original score and sound design are by Obadiah Eaves, whose most recent work includes the Broadway productions The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Shining City. He is the 2005 Lortel Award recipient for Outstanding Sound Design and an Audelco Viv Award winner. Eaves, a graduate of Rochester's School of the Arts, created the sound design for the original Obie Award-winning production of Nine Parts of Desire, which is currently being performed at Geva.

Tickets for King Lear are $10 for the general public, $6 for University of Rochester students, and $8 for senior citizens, University of Rochester faculty, staff, and alumni. They can be reserved online at or by calling the box office at (585) 275-4088. Tickets can also be purchased at the door, one hour before the performance. Todd Theatre is located in Todd Union on the University's River Campus.