Our public spaces: Who are they for? Who gets access and when?
Anticipating the prospect of directing King Lear in Lone Fir Cemetery, these questions swirled in my head. We would be producing one of the greatest plays ever written, supposedly for everyone in our community, but who was really invited? Who felt welcome? And whose routines were we disrupting by being here?
In the play, Lear co-opts and dictates everyone else’s experience, choices, and bodies. He does this in order to fit them to the world that he has created and longs to maintain. By putting him at the center of the action the audience becomes a complicit voyeur in his actions of pettiness, misogyny, and also in his longing for human connection. We feel for and are repelled by him as we wonder how a man so monstrously unsuited to leadership came to rule all that he surveys.
Lear’s journey, of a man who falls from high and finds compassion for all humanity, becomes our journey. As I write this, I’m not sure if Lear finds redemption at the end of the play, but I do know that the action of the script has propelled us to hope in a new dawn; controlled by a new generation of change-makers who have risen out of the chaos of the play.
I would also like to think that our simple act of performance and, the agreement between ourselves to sit down in this most public of spaces with one another, will also offer hope and the chance to accept everyone in our community for who we all are. In all of our beautiful, complicated, glory.
I’m looking forward to the New Dawn, friends. The struggle continues.