Shakespeare’s Epic Tragedy, Reimagined for Online Audiences, Premieres September 2
Youngstown, Ohio, USA August 6, 2020 – SmashUp Entertainment is thrilled to present a remotely-filmed adaptation of William Shakespeare’s masterpiece KING LEAR. Adapted and directed by Michael Dempsey, and starring veteran Cleveland actor Tom Fulton in the title role, KING LEAR will be presented as a 5-part “mini-series” of webisodes on SmashUp Entertainment’s YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/smashup-youtube).
Episode One of the series debuts Sept. 2 at 7:00pm EST, followed by a live-streamed Q&A with the cast and creators. Episodes Two through Five will follow each Wednesday evening through September. It is free to the public, and episodes will remain available for viewing throughout early October.
The project began as a community theater production by Mahoning Valley Players (MVP) in Youngstown, Ohio. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Dempsey and MVP decided that it should evolve into a virtual adaptation. “In his time, Shakespeare’s company persevered through pestilence and plagues,” Dempsey says. “They didn’t give up. I thought neither should we.” Dempsey says he’s grateful for MVP for remaining an underwriter for the project.
Creating a remotely-filmed production involved reimagining the entire process. Dempsey acknowledges that there’s little precedent for the undertaking. “I wanted to see how far we could push the envelope, go beyond the current crop of Zoom-recorded readings and concerts. They’re wonderful, but my desire was to shatter the boundaries of actors stuck in Zoom squares. I didn’t want ‘Brady Bunch King Lear.’”
So how do you socially distance but still create a sense of characters, scenes and environments? “First, we decided to have the cast interact together online, but record their individual performances simultaneously on local devices. That would allow me greater freedom in shaping the show, with editing, music and effects. It really became this unique, hybrid form–part independent film, part online collaboration, and part theatre.”
Being virtual, geography was no obstacle to involvement. “Audition videos came in from everywhere.” The ensuing cast has some of Northeast Ohio’s best talent but also includes actors from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Wales and elsewhere. Dempsey says that watching them rehearse together online confirmed what he’d hoped for: “The format’s limitations fell away very quickly. I found myself laughing, having tears in my eyes–it was astonishing.”
The cast was also game: they not only had to learn their roles, but how to set up makeshift green screen studios in their homes and record themselves on their phones, webcams, computers and cameras. “That’s 32 actors and too many devices to count! Luckily, the average smart phone records very high-quality HD footage nowadays.”
Tom Fulton, a professional actor, director and instructor, is founder and artistic director of the highly-respected Academy for the Performing Arts in Chagrin Falls, where he teaches Shakespearean acting. While he’s both directed KING LEAR and played the title role, “Acting in this filmed version is a first for me.” Fulton states. “The whole process was an experiment. While it will lack the aspect of live performance, where we’re all together in a room journeying into the mind of Lear, there are also interesting positives–taking the time for greater clarity of language and comprehension. It will still be compelling.”
“Ultimately,” Dempsey concludes, “the most important thing is this: this cast’s performances are extraordinary.”
by William Shakespeare
Watch on Smash Up Entertainment’s YouTube channel:
• Episode I debuts Sep 2, 7:00pm ET
followed by a live-streamed Q&A with the director and cast
• Episode II debuts Sep 9, 7:00pm ET
• Episode III debuts Sep 16, 7:00pm ET
• Episode IV debuts Sep 23, 7:00pm ET
• Episode V debuts Sep 30, 7:00pm ET
Tom Fulton, (King Lear), Kenneth Brown (Albany), Siobhan Carroll (Cordelia), Liz Conrad (Goneril), Skip Corris (Gloucester), John Cox (Cornwall), Cheryl Games (Kent), Jessica Gittins (Regan), Mike Glavan (Edmund), William Goff (Edgar), Logan Jancsurak (Oswald), Cody Swanson (Fool), James Ballor, Josh Beacom, Morgan Beck, Claudia Gage, Carla D. Gipson, Jacob Glosser, Sydney Ann Goldstein, Jessica Hirsh, Krishnni Khanna, Manav Khanna, Megan Kibler, Sarah Parr, Samuel Roter, Mary Sikorovsky, Richard Smiley, Matthew Wilks, Alyssa Wexler.
Michael Dempsey, Director and Producer
Cheryl Games, Co-Producer and Promotional Director
Devin Whitehouse, Co-Producer and Production Manager
Cassandra Clouser, Conceptual Consultant, Web & Graphic Design
Jacob Glosser, Sound Designer and Technician
Cody Swanson, Props Master
For more information, or to arrange an interview with Michael Dempsey or Tom Fulton, contact Cheryl Games, firstname.lastname@example.org.