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Lynnea Benson - King Lear Interview

Known for their thrilling and accessible adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, Frog & Peach Theatre Company is set to captivate audiences once again with their rendition of the Bard’s startlingly relevant tragedy King Lear.

Directed by Lynnea Benson, the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Frog & Peach Theatre Co., Inc., King Lear promises to be a beautifully acted and fast-paced production that stays true to the text. With a talented cast and a creative team that includes Asa Benally for set and costume design, Obie and Drama Desk Award winner Dennis Parichy for lighting design, and Ted Zurkowski for music, audiences can expect a visually stunning and emotionally riveting experience.

The role of King Lear will be played by the renowned Greg Mullavey, known for his work in Clever Little Lies, The Soap Myth, and TV's iCarly and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Mullavey's commanding stage presence and exceptional talent make him the perfect fit for this extraordinary role.

Ahead of the run we sat down with Lynnea to discuss the piece in more detail.

Why did you choose King Lear?
Of all Shakespeare’s plays, the plot, conflicts, & language of King Lear are probably the easiest to understand. Like Succession or Game of Thrones, There’s not a family member on the planet who doesn’t identify with the issues of poor parenting, favoritism, mental illness, or the care of an aging parent. That all this plays out in a vicious, highly sexual struggle for power makes it even more fun. And Greg (Mullavey) was available!

How have you approached bringing the text to life?
The text on its own is alarmingly alive! It’s really a very direct, modern play. 

What is the biggest challenge of staging a Shakespeare play?
With a cast of 20 or more, scheduling rehearsals can be a challenge. But we’ve been very lucky with LEAR.

Do you ever have to change the language or text to make it work for a 2024 audience?
Not really. We do cut repetitive or archaic passages. As I’ve said, you certainly don’t need any kind of diploma to understand this play. 

How has it been working with Greg Mullavey and what does he bring to the role? 
Glorious! In 2014s TITUS ANDRONICUS, Greg and I found that we have a lot in common in our approach to Shakespeare-natural, direct, and not at all snooty. And KING LEAR, done right, really is knockout entertainment for everybody. 

If you could ask Shakespeare one question about the play what would you ask?
His plays show us how to be decent, brave human beings, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult! That’s something we all need to remember every day. His stories help us get through the daily struggles, and the catastrophes too. If I could talk to him, I would thank him for that.

If you could have dinner with ANY 3 Shakespeare characters who would you invite?
Right this second? I’d have to say Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. All three are interesting, powerful women who steer their own ships in a time when women were not viewed as complete human beings. If the Fool could come along too, I’d appreciate it! 

What keeps you inspired?
The honesty Shakespeare uses to tell this story. You will witness great love, madness, and absolute terror in this play, and our fearless, gifted cast really know what they’re doing. 

What do you hope an audience member takes away from the production of King Lear?
Don’t assume you really know a person. Also, get everything in writing!  

Performances of King Lear will take place at The Theatre at St Clements, located at 423 W 46th St in New York City. The production runs from 26th January until 18th February. With performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30PM, Sundays at 3:00PM, and a special Wednesday performance on 2/14 at 7:30PM. The duration of the performance is 2hrs, 15 mins with one intermission.

Tickets for King Lear start at $34.95 and can be purchased online at On The Stage. Student discounts are available, making this a great opportunity for those who may think Shakespeare's plays are lofty, bloodless affairs to see the plays come to alarming life. Students with valid school ID can purchase tickets for just $19.99 for performances thru 2/11!  For Theatre Lovers ages 65+, just $19.99 thru 2/11. Prices are slightly higher at the door.

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