A Noise Within resumes its 25th Anniversary season with their production of King Lear by William Shakespeare, which will run in repertory with Man of La Mancha later in the spring. The two productions share the same director (Julia Rodriguez-Elliott), the same leading man (Geoff Elliott), and the same scenic elements – enabling a quick turnover between a matinee and an evening performance, so that the two productions can play on the same day, on the same stage.
“In Lear, this personal journey of a family dealing with an ailing patriarch has global implications,” says Rodriguez-Elliott, “The breakdown of a nation runs concurrent with Lear’s mental decline. At the beginning of the play, see a man at the zenith of his power, a modern day dictator who is feared and has never heard the word NO. The world we enter is a violent, callous one. At the end, we see a man transformed.”
The world of La Mancha is similarly violent and callous – and ripe for transformation. “Though many often associate Man of La Mancha with elaborate set pieces and fanciful costumes,” says Rodriguez-Elliott, “Its earliest stagings were sparse, encompassing the spirit of a rag-tag band of prisoners putting on a play with found objects. I wanted to return to those roots. Based on real third-world prisons, the conditions we’ve created for Cervantes and his fellow inmates are recognizable and terrifying.”
The theme of this 25th anniversary season, ‘Beyond Our Wildest Dreams,’ resonates in just how much A Noise Within has created in their now six-year-old theatre. The two plays are presented so that they both can be seen on the same day, allowing them to fully speak to each other. And A Noise Within has grown to encompass the resources to fully realize all kinds of staging ideas — “a size and a depth and a sense of the epic, while maintaining a true intimacy between the characters and the audience, and even a sense of both the global and the local.” Rodriguez Elliott says, “Our production of Lear can hold a whisper and a tear, with a howl and a curse.”
It also gives Geoff Elliott a chance to perform both Lear and Cervantes/Don Quixote – roles that speak of time and age and growth of the characters – and that speaks also of an actor, and the acting company that can support these shows. A Noise Within has always provided a unique environment in which actors work together across decades, and how the support of these artistic relationships resonate in the relationships of the characters as performed onstage.
Elliott says, “I feel that I know Lear. He is stripped of everything, and must face his worst demons to find tenderness and uncompromising love in a very violent world. Lear spends so much of the play terrified of losing his mind. Anyone who goes through a similar self-investigation can’t help but ask ‘am I sane?’ as so much of the world that we live in seems insane.”
Elliott continues, “In his way, Cervantes/Don Quixote is Lear’s doppelganger. As he assumes Quixote’s persona, Cervantes gains the courage and the strength needed to face the uncertain future of the Inquisition. He – along with his fellow prisoners and, ultimately, the audience – are transformed.”
While both King Lear and Man of La Mancha can be enjoyed singly, when seen consecutively, they become an informative theatrical experience. “It seemed natural to pair Shakespeare and Cervantes–two essential figures in English and Spanish culture–on the heels of the 400th anniversary of their deaths. I saw an opportunity to approach Lear and La Mancha in a fresh new way,” says Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, “Both stories are deeply personal and have such a profoundly optimistic worldview. Though it’s a tragedy, I would argue that by plays’ end, Lear realizes what truly matters in life: family by his side.”
In addition to the director and lead actor, both Lear and La Mancha share other key cast and Artistic Design Team members–Fred Kinney (Scenic), Angela Balogh Calin (Costume), and Ken Booth (Lighting).
“On two Saturdays this spring, we invite audience members to dine with our casts and artistic team,” says Geoff Elliott, “it’s a unique opportunity to gain insight on our design and conceptual process.” Called The Great Escape, audience members can enjoy a meal with the casts and artistic team between back-to-back performances of King Lear and Man of La Mancha on Saturday April 22 and Saturday May 6.