Bristol Riverside Theatre continues its 33rd anniversary season by partnering with the renowned Bedlam Theatre, out of New York City, to present a modern look at a classic Shakespearean tragedy. Bedlam has a reputation for new, fresh, active environment storytelling that creates a kinetic experience of shared empathy. Lead by Bedlam’s Artistic Director Eric Tucker, Bedlam brings its six-woman interpretation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear to the Philadelphia region and Bucks County. This exciting collaboration represents the first time Bristol Riverside Theatre has presented another theatre company on its stage. Lear runs January 28-February 16, 2020, with opening night on Thursday, January 30, 2020, at 7:30pm. All performances are at Bristol Riverside Theatre, located at 120 Radcliffe Street. Tickets are on sale now for $10-$50. They can be purchased online at brtstage.org, at the theatre’s box office, or over the phone at 215-785-0100.
“It is a major part of our mission to explore everything theatre has to offer and to bring the most exciting and contemporary ideas to our stage,” said BRT Artistic Director Keith Baker. “Bedlam is a well respected innovator of classical work. It will be unlike anything our audience has seen before and will hopefully enhance the reputation of BRT as being fearless in what we choose to present. This is the first time BRT has presented another theatre company on its Mainstage. Getting to know Eric Tucker, the artistic director of Bedlam, when he was here directing our production of The Rivals was a clear indication that his work should be seen on our stage.”
Considered by many to be the greatest tragedy ever written, King Lear is an epic tale of sorrow, forgiveness, madness, and reconciliation. In this classic drama, an aging king creates a succession plan to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He requires each child to flatter him in order to receive her gift. Lear is surprised when his youngest, most beloved child refuses. Publicly embarrassed, Lear takes her out of the equation and splits the country between his two eldest daughters, setting off a chain of events that leads them into civil war and sees the elderly king exiled and going mad. Led by director Eric Tucker, New York’s acclaimed Bedlam Theatre comes to BRT with a fresh retelling of this Shakespearean classic.
Bedlam workshopped the play several years ago. The company wanted to do it in two parts with each part dealing with several points of view and turning it into a real ensemble piece — instead of it just being a showcase for an actor to play Lear. During the initial workshop, all actors shared the role of King Lear, based on whose point of view they were looking through. At BRT, for the first production, Bedlam will look through the points of view of King Lear and his youngest and favored daughter Cordelia. Later in the year, look for the second production to take place in New York City.
The cast of King Lear is Therese Barbato, Lisa Birnbaum, Eliza Fichter, Santa Claire Hirsch, Stefani Kuo, and Zuzanna Szadkowski. Szadkowski, who appeared as Dorota on “Gossip Girl” and was Nurse Pell on the Cinemax series from Steven Soderbergh, “The Knick”, plays King Lear. Her extensive theatre credits include earning the Wall Street Journal Performance of the Year in 2018 for Juliet.
Barbato plays Cordelia/Fool. She has extensive theatre credits and made her Broadway debut last year in King Lear with Glenda Jackson. She was in the ensemble and understudied Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia/Fool. Birnbaum plays Gloucester/Goneril. She has extensive regional and off-Broadway credits including Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility (Folger, ART, & Portland Centerstage), Lysistrata (Conn. Rep), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Playmakers Rep), and others. Fichter plays Regan/Poor Tom/Knight. She has extensive regional credits and previously worked with Bedlam in collaboration with The Nora Theatre Company in The Crucible.
Hirsch plays Oswald/Burgandy/Cornwall/Doctor/Gentleman. She is a recent graduate of Wagner College. She has produced many of her own cabaret shows in Mexico and has appeared in Bill Solly’s Solly’s Follies in New York. Her one woman show Two Worlds Colliding appeared in New York at Tongue in Cheek’s Plus One Solo Festival directed by Jake Lipman. Kuo is France/Kent/Albany. She is a playwright, poet, and performer and a native of Hong Kong and graduated from Yale. She has extensive theatre credits and has worked in New York, Minneapolis, Williamstown, New Haven, Hong Kong, Provence, Taipei, Nantou, Oxford, and Berlin.
Tucker, who is returning to BRT after directing The Rivals last season, is excited about how timely King Lear remains and what audiences will gain from this production. “It’s timely because it’s about family, politics and power, succession, human nature and maybe most of all, because the writing is some of the best in the English language. That never gets old,” said Tucker. “I hope audiences are able to look at a classic play in a different way. I hope they see how expansive theatre can be with the help of their own imagination and the way we tell a story, which is always trying to find the most theatrical way of doing so.”
The creative team behind this production includes Jason Simms as the Scenic Designer. Simms designed the expansive set for BRT’s season opener, An Act of God. Joe Doran is the Lighting Designer. Doran was the Lighting Designer for Tucker’s production of The Rivals at BRT and has assisted Howell Brinkley as Associate Lighting Designer on several Broadway Shows and National Tours, including Summer, The Donna Summer Musical and the National Tour of Hamilton. Lisa Zinni is the Costume Designer. Zinni has extensive Broadway credits and most recently was the Costume Designer for Freestyle Love Supreme. Brad Ward is the Sound Designer. Ward returns to BRT after Sound Design for The Rivals. He has extensive credits including a TONY nomination for Choir Boy on Broadway. Violeta Picayo is the Assistant Director. Musa Gurnis is the Dramaturg. Sean Ravitz is the Production Stage Manager.
King Lear runs at Bristol Riverside Theatre from January 28-February 16, 2020. Bristol Riverside Theatre is located in Bucks County, at 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA. Tickets start at $10-$50 and are available online at brtstage.org, at the theatre’s box office, or over the phone at 215-785-0100. Subscriptions for the 2019/2020 season are still available.
Following Lear in March, BRT brings to life the Kander and Ebb smash hit Cabaret running March 10 – April 12, 2020. With a book by Joe Masteroff, this musical set in a nightclub with World War II knocking on its door is directed by Keith Baker and features many Broadway standards including “Willkommen”, “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret.” The season will then conclude with A Leg Up by Bucks County’s own Ken Kaissar, running May 12 – May 31, 2020. The world-premiere farce will be directed by Amy Kaissar.
Bristol Riverside Theatre continues to enhance the theater-going experience with pre- and post- performance programs during the run of each production, including: Post-Show Discussions (first Tuesday and Wednesday of each run); Opening Night (first Thursday of each run) featuring a post-performance reception; Friday Festival (first Friday of each run) featuring beer and appetizers; Wine-Down Wednesday (second Wednesday evening of each run) featuring pre-show crudité, desserts, and wine, and Thirsty Thursday (third Thursday of each run) featuring unique beer selections from local breweries.
ABOUT BEDLAM THEATRE
Committed to the immediacy of the relationship between the actor and the audience, Bedlam creates works of theatre that reinvigorate traditional forms in a flexible, raw space, collapsing aesthetic distance and bringing its viewers into direct contact with the dangers and delicacies of life. In this new, fresh, active environment storytelling becomes paramount and the result is a kinetic experience of shared empathy.
Bedlam was founded in 2012, presenting George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan on a shoestring budget with only four actors playing over 25 characters. The show received instant recognition and was extended four times. Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal was an early admirer, describing it as “Thrilling! An unforgettable show! The most exciting George Bernard Shaw revival I’ve ever seen, bar none.”
In 2013, Bedlam produced William Shakespeare’s Hamlet with the same four actors, again playing over 25 characters amongst themselves. Hamlet ran in repertory with Saint Joan and both productions were then transferred for a commercial Off-Broadway run at The Lynn Redgrave Theater in the winter of 2013/2014. Ben Brantley, the head theatre critic of The New York Times wrote, “Every member of Bedlam hears voices. Not of God and his saints, but of Shaw (who probably would have said that’s the same thing) and Shakespeare. And I mean they believe they hear these playwrights, in all their sonority, telling them what to do…anyone who listens to the eminently sane and persuasive voices of Bedlam is destined to become a convert.”
During the 2014 and 2015 seasons Bedlam produced two Off Broadway remounts, two World Premieres, one American Premiere and two different productions of Twelfth Night running in repertory with one another, all receiving additional acclaim. Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Artistic Director Eric Tucker ran for a year Off Broadway, including three extensions. Another major hit with the critics, Peter Hempstead of Theatermania explained it best: “This hysterical, endlessly inventive production captures Austen’s penchant for satire while inducing laughs with an ever-changing set and 10 brilliant actors who never seem to stop moving. It’s one of the funniest, most engaging productions now running off-Broadway.”
Bedlam’s shows have been noted as Ben Brantley’s “Critics’ Picks” for The New York Times six times, noted on The New York Times and New York Magazine’s “Top Ten Best Show Lists” two times, as well as those of The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine respectively. The Wall Street Journal also noted Eric Tucker as “Director of the Year” in 2014. Bedlam has won two Irne Awards, two Off Broadway Alliance Awards and an Obie Grant. Bedlam has also been nominated for two Lucille Lortel awards, a Drama League award, six Elliot Norton awards, winning for Best Visiting Production and Best Ensemble for Bedlam’s Saint Joan, Best Visiting Production for Bedlam’s Twelfth Night/What You Will and Best Visiting Performer for Vaishnavi Sharma in Bedlam’s Pygmalion.
ABOUT ERIC TUCKER
Wall Street Journal DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR 2014. Off Broadway: Vanity Fair (The Pearl); Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility (Off Broadway Alliance Award, Lortel nom., Best Director, Drama League nom., Best Revival); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Drama League nom. Best Revival, WSJ Best Classical Production 2015; NY Times Critics’ Pick), Bedlam’s Saint Joan (NY Times/Time Magazine Top 10; Off Broadway Alliance Best Revival 2014), Bedlam’s Hamlet (NY Times Top 10; Time Out NY/Backstage Critics’ Pick), Tina Packer’s Women of Will. For Bedlam: Hamlet/Saint Joan: McCarter Theatre; Central Sq. Theater (Elliott Norton: Outstanding Visiting Production/Outstanding Ensemble, Boston Globe Top Ten); Dead Dog Park, New York Animals (World Premiere by Steven Sater/Burt Bacharach), Twelfth Night and What You Will (NY Times Critics’ Picks), The Seagull (WSJ Best Classical Production 2014), Sense & Sensibility (NY Times Top 10, NY Times/WSJ/Time Out Critics’ Picks). Other: The Merry Wives of Windsor (Two River), Disney’s Beauty & The Beast (OSF); Pericles (APT); Sense and Sensibility (The Folger Theater, 8 Helen Hayes nominations including Best Director and Best Production), Copenhagen (Central Square Theater), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (HVSF), Mate (The Actors’ Gang). Eric received his M.F.A. from the Trinity Rep Conservatory. He resides in New York City where he is Founder and Artistic Director of Bedlam.
ABOUT BRISTOL RIVERSIDE THEATRE
Since 1986, BRT has continued to bring critically acclaimed professional theatre to Bucks County. The theatre is the recipient of over 71 Barrymore Award nominations for Excellence in Theatre, given annually by Theatre Philadelphia. Under the direction of Artistic Director Keith Baker, Founding Director Susan D. Atkinson, and General Manager David J. Abers, the theatre serves as a cultural hub for the community. In addition to its Mainstage productions, BRT offers four concerts, including the holiday tradition An American Christmas Songbook, the new play development series America Rising, and the summer theater arts camp ArtRageous. For information, visit www.brtstage.org.