as the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and Vietnam have shaped our
nation, the events of September 11, 2001 define an era. With
just over a year gone by it is still very difficult to get
past the horror, past the hurt, past the need for revenge,
past the uncontrolled patriotism and the undeniable need to
stand up for our country in the time of crisis. The events
of September 11th have triggered a dormant need within us
to re-examine the American Dream at the dawn of the twenty-first
century. For many of us, there can only be one "our times,"
the times after September 11, 2001.
The story of King Lear dramatically parallels the events of
September 11th. Unchecked power leads to Lear's (America's?)
inability to see his world crumbling around him, and a belief
that he is in total control. Gloucester must be physically
blinded before he is able to see his faults, and Edgar must
be stripped of his possessions before he can see his true
purpose. Only Edmund, whose goddess is "nature,"
sees the world as it truly exists, but uses his clarity of
vision to pursue selfish interests, rather than selfless service
of his country.
Staging the play at the World Trade Center site reveals a
frightening and disturbing resonance to the actions, emotions,
and thoughts of the characters. The setting reveals in the
play, and the play reveals in the setting a world of absolute
and unchecked power, where isolated individuals pursue selfish
objectives in stark contrast to citizens who selflessly serve
their country; where materialism contrasts with poverty, vision
with blindness, extravagance with desolation, light with darkness,
and physicality with spirituality. It is a world that explores
the relationship between man and a higher power (be it nature,
the gods, or fate), and individual journeys result in spiritual
rebirth. Permeating the play is an exploration of the resonances
underlying Cordelia's inciting line, "nothing."
This "nothing" characterizes our setting at Ground
Zero: the desolation and destruction of the collapse; a nothing
starkly contrasted by the Time Square facades that surround
our set, and the very real world of the New York City skyline
that frames our outdoor theatre.
The corner stone of our production is the characterization
of the play's namesake, King Lear. We present Uncle Sam in
the role of King Lear, a vivid metaphor in and of itself.
Uncle Sam as King Lear personifies the American spirit, past
and present: a once great and powerful leader consumed by
power, left a homeless bum by the very politicians that pledged
to protect him; driven in his journey to confront the people
who are the backbone of this country.
Uncle Sam as King Lear...Ground Zero as Albion... Limousines
as horses...Servants as "uppity slaves"... Lear's
Fool as a virtual mass-media entertainer... A blown-out diner
as the hovel...A burned out fire-truck ladder as the road
to Dover...Afghanistan as Dover... The American Flag as a
symbol of power and a weapon of destruction. Allegory, fantasy,
or surrealistic history lesson, King Lear at Ground Zero is
most of all an opportunity to explores the why behind September
11, and without mercy, examines who we are, where we have
been, what we have become, and what we might still possibly