Department of Theatre and New Dance draws virtual curtain for ‘King Lear’ film

By Ethereal Violet Reyes, Aug. 24, 2021

The pandemic did not stop the Theatre and New Dance department from producing a show as they created the noteworthy production of “King Lear” in the form of a cinematic film over summer for season 17 of The Southern California Shakespeare Festival.

According to Linda Bisesti, artistic director of the Southern California Shakespeare Festival and professor in the Department of Theatre and New Dance, the department has never produced a show as uniquely as this one.

The production team for “King Lear” was required to take special safety precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 during their filming process. The 10-day shoot took place at the Studio Theatre in Building 25 on campus.

With a production process that lasted for over a year, theatre students and staff along with entertainment professionals worked to create “King Lear,” a production that Bisesti feels the Cal Poly Pomona community will be able to resonate with amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a timelessness and relevance of Shakespeare and how it plays today,” said Bisesti. “It’s a universal theme that is still strong – it is about family, love, old age, loyalty, disloyalty, all of that.”

The “King Lear” production gave Cal Poly Pomona theatre students valuable experience during a cruel summer for the theatre industry as stages across the world have been empty and desolate.

“I had done three Zoom shows where you’re just acting toward a wall or at that tiny little dot of death on your screen, so it was a relief getting to be face to face with other people and actors who are ready to work with you,” said Samantha Kernaghan, a theatre student and actress in “King Lear.”

The auditions for “King Lear” were held in person, the same week that Cal Poly Pomona announced the campus shutdown due to COVID-19. The news of the shutdown spun the production upside down but with their creativity and passion, the endeavor to create a film began.

Noah Stonecipher, a theatre student and the technical director for the production, feels that the “King Lear” production is distinctive from others because of the movement of the cameras and the three-dimensional cinematography used for the film.

“We built the set in a way that we could film in any angle we wanted to, so it wasn’t just a fixed camera watching,” Stonecipher said.

Bisesti founded the Southern California Shakespeare Festival 17 years ago with a mission to offerstudents training that could translate into the professional world. She paved a new path this year by continuing to grant students with hands-on experience, regardless of COVID-19.

“The audience can look forward to a fantastic collection of extremely talented actors,” said Stonecipher. “This is probably one of the best companies we have had, that I worked with, not only in this festival but in any acting world that I’ve been involved with.”

The film opened its virtual curtains on YouTube on Aug. 20 and it will be available to stream until Sept. 3. Visit the Southern California Shakespeare Festival website for more information about Cal Poly Pomona’s “King Lear” production.

Featured image courtesy of Linda Bisesti.

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