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The King Is Dead, Long Live the Queen

Shakespeare Society mixes it up in Queen Lear this weekend

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At first glance, it’s not clear why Queen Lear, the upcoming performance by BU’s Shakespeare Society, is promoting itself as a gender-bending extravaganza. The title role is, after all, being played by a man, sophomore Nic Campos (COM’10). The twist is that Campos’ Lear believes he’s a woman, and the resulting confusion causes the king’s eventual descent into madness.

“We always have to gender-bend, so this started off as a joke: how it would be funny if we took on something as big as King Lear,” says Lisa Walden (CAS’09), the president of the society. “So now Lear is a drag queen who owns a drag club in New York, and his madness is losing his identity as his daughters take over his business.”

The five-year-old Shakespeare Society — founded in 2003 as The Bard’s Bad Boys — produces two shows a year, and members meet twice a month to read plays and bond over their love of Shakespeare. Some people join because they’re interested in performing, Walden says, and others bring an abiding interest in the playwright and poet. “Most people end up leaving as Shakespeare enthusiasts, even if they weren’t when they joined,” she says. “I was never someone who hated Shakespeare in high school, but I wasn’t as obsessed as I am now.”

In the traditional version, King Lear decides to abdicate the throne of England and divide his kingdom among his three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. To determine who deserves the greatest share, Lear asks each daughter to tell him how much she loves him; the youngest, Cordelia, refuses, saying she cannot describe her love, and Lear disinherits her. War and bloodshed ensue.

In Queen Lear, Goneril and Regan are scheming to wrest control of the family business from their father, whose lifestyle embarrasses them. Only Cordelia accepts her father as he is — but, as in the original, his realization of that comes too late.

Queen Lear will be performed at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29, and also at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Performances are in CGS’s Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, 871 Commonwealth Ave., and tickets are $5. For more information, visit the Shakespeare Society’s Web site.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.

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