(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — July 17, 2023) The Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival (KSF) concludes its 26th season with “King Lear,” running Fridays through Sundays from July 21 through Aug. 6 on the California Lutheran University campus. A novel twist on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, which is set in a pre-Christian, pagan time and place, the Kingsmen production takes place in the near future, in an abandoned shopping mall after an apocalyptic event.
“We don’t know what this apocalyptic event is, or when it takes place,” said KSF co-founder and Artistic Director Michael J. Arndt, who is directing the play, “but there’s a sense of this person trying to maintain power in his ‘kingdom.’”
Arndt said the play is “relevant in a number of ways.” He points to the popularity and critical acclaim of the HBO series “Succession,” which is “basically the King Lear story, just modernized.” Also, “the country is somewhat divided right now, and the idea of the play is that when you are divided, it doesn’t always work out so well.”
Props and costumes needed to be based on what someone might find in a mall, so the costumers and set dressers needed to exercise creativity and ingenuity. So, instead of swords and shields, weapons are pieces of rebar, golf clubs and ski poles. The characters wear tuxedos — and Crocs.
The play is also a story about growing older. The aging Lear, as he attempts to keep ruling his battered retail realm while also dividing his kingdom among his daughters, goes mad. Arndt said this aspect of the play resonates with him personally because he retired in May as a Cal Lutheran theater professor after 43 years. On a larger scale, he said, “We struggle as well with letting go of the control we once had in our country,” whether we are an aging politician or an older citizen.
Playing Lear is KSF co-founder Lane Davies. Known for his television roles in soap operas including “Santa Barbara” and “General Hospital,” as well as other shows and films, Davies is a classically trained actor who also has appeared in numerous stage productions.
Arndt, who admits to a “secret self-indulgence” for post-apocalyptic films and shows like “The Walking Dead” and “The Last of Us,” said he is “fascinated by their central theme: someone taking control, someone coming from an average life and becoming a leader, in some cases a dictator. How do people maintain control? What is it to be afraid of what’s outside your own little world?”
When Lear wanders out into the wilderness (or in the Kingsmen setting, the streets outside the mall), Arndt said, “just as when you leave the confines of your castle, your fort, there’s danger. We don’t have zombies, but it is that fear of the outside, the unknown.”
“King Lear” will take place in Kingsmen Park at Cal Lutheran Fridays through Sundays, July 21-23, July 28-30 and Aug. 4-6. Gates open for picnics at 5:30 p.m.; shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are first come, first served.
Admission is $25 for adults; $20 for seniors 62 and older and active military, $15 for students 18 and older with ID, and free for children. Lawn boxes, which accommodate four to six people, are $100 to $120. Tickets are available for purchase online with $3 fees. For more information and tickets, visit kingsmenshakespeare.org or call 805-493-3452.
MEDIA NOTE: A photo of Lane Davies as King Lear is attached. Credit: Brian Stethem. For additional photos, contact Sharon Nelson at email@example.com or 805-493-3150 or visit kingsmenshakespeare.org/gallery/. For more information, contact Mark Berry, associate vice president of marketing and communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-493-3839.