Performance #2: Ellie Otis – King Lear: Recreating Women’s Stories

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Faculty mentor: Andra Harbold

Artist’s Statement: During 2020 quarantine, I was asked to co-direct a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear for the following summer, which brought me to reanalyze what I was already familiar with in the script. I went in with the knowledge that King Lear was about a frail old man tormented by his two elder “evil” daughters, Goneril and Regan, after he accidentally pushes away his loving youngest daughter, Cordelia. Reading the actual text, however, revealed that this was not in fact Shakespeare’s story, but rather the one that society had crafted. Instead, it was about three women oppressed by the system around them, three-dimensional people whose actions rose from the system attempting to suppress them; three sisters who are ultimately torn apart. I worked with the three women cast as the sisters to craft real human beings, resulting in incredible conversations about womanhood, sisterly love and protection, and how strong women are often made out to be villains for fear of their strength. We did exercises and improvised scenes between the sisters to see how they would interact under a variety of circumstances, showing the love and care they had for each other that was gutted by the patriarchy and their manipulative father. The excerpts below show scenes with the sisters, particularly Goneril and Regan– how they stand together when having to confront their father and how they find power and strength in each other. In addition, there are voice recordings of the sisters, our King Lear, and myself discussing how society has perpetuated this lasting false narrative, and how we can use the words Shakespeare has written to reclaim and rewrite it, both for ourselves and for those who come after us. Each of our three performances was packed with an audience, resulting in much of the community witnessing the art we as a cast had created. Our feminist approach to King Lear proved to be a fantastic learning experience of feminism, unity, and the bond that all those identifying as women share. 

Watch my performance below!
Questions or comments? Contact me at: eoti8338@gmail.com

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