Monday, January 30, 2012

Oddfellows to present “The King(Lear)” Featuring John Basinger

“Attend the Lords of France and Burgandy, Gloucester.” And so begins the journey of "The King." Is this the definition of insanity? Is this man the reincarnation today of the real King Lear? Is this man an actor who, having performed Lear so many times that he can't get out of the role? Is this man simply one of us obsessed with the tragedy of life, both then and now, that he is compelled forever to repeat his errors?

“The King (Lear)” will be performed Thursday February 9, Friday February 10, and Saturday February 11 at 7:30pm.

The play, conceived and adapted by John Basinger, is the story of King Lear, from one man’s perspective – Lear’s. The performances will benefit Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater. The production is directed by James Stidfole.

Said Basinger, “I had really decided that to take on King Lear for a full production in 2009, I needed to begin learning the part so I could fully commit. It took me a good year, year and a half to get it all in my head. When it looked like the production would falter after Jeffery [Allen] left, it struck me that it is really an odd play – so much of the play goes on around Lear and is enacted by other characters. Having done all of Paradise Lost as a live performance, recreating the characters, it wasn’t much of a leap to say, this could be done with [King] Lear.” Basinger describes The King as a “one character play, whose sole character speaks only Lear’s lines.”

Basinger might be best known throughout central CT for his marathon performance of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” from memory. Basinger began his career in theater 43 years ago with the National Theater of the Deaf, touring a good portion of the world with them. Since that time he has appeared in movies, taught theater at Three Rivers Community College, slammed poetry and wrote and directed plays, most recently the outdoor historic drama, “Benedict Arnold: A Brave Revenge” presented in Groton in 2003.

Artistically, Basinger believes that there is a wide range of interpretation that can be brought to this character through this adaptation. “Certainly, you can see doing it as an exercise in theater – how to solve the problem of Lear. There is a problem with Lear, a serious problem. It has been cobbled together from several pieces. There is not an explanation of Lear’s dilemma. It is right there. Other than being the inciting incident for all of this other action, you don’t need Lear. He is not an agent of action. He gives away his power at the beginning, and then we don’t need to listen to him rant and rave. So part of this is an experiment for how to explore Lear.”

Tickets are $25.00 for adults and $12 for students and can be purchased by calling the box office at (860) 347-6143 or online at

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the CT Department of Education, the CT Commission on Culture & Tourism, The Middlesex United Way, The Stare Fund, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Pratt & Whitney, J. Walton Bissell Foundation, CDBG Scholarship Program, WESU 88.1FM, Triple Frog, Comcast and the Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund.

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