News Item: (USA) The Rudes set ‘King Lear' in modern-day biker bar
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by MJF
Thursday 19 August 2010 - 11:50:00

OK another different one, but Hey what could bring more Class to the Classics than Bikers?

Laurel-based Shakespeare company opens new production in Greenbelt

David Trozzo/For The Gazette
In the Rude Mechanicals' production of William Shakespeare's "King Lear," the setting has been changed to a biker bar. (From left) Jaki Demarest of Falls Church plays Kent; Michael Galizia of Brooklyn, Md., is King Lear; Taylor Payne of Damascus, Va., is Cordelia; and Leah Raulerson of Washington, D.C., is Albany during Monday�s rehearsal of the play.

The servants became gang recruits. The King of Britain became the leader of a violent motorcycle gang, and his state of madness became a drunken fit by an alcoholic. Some women characters played by men became actual men. There's no castle, but there is a biker bar with a billiards table, and the actors had to learn to play pool.

That's how Kelli Biggs made sure The Rude Mechanical production of William Shakespeare's "King Lear" was relevant to a modern audience: she made them members of an Outlaw Motorcycle Club known as the Knights of Albion.

"King Lear," considered one of Shakespeare's greatest works, was written in the early 1600s and has been adapted widely in the centuries since.

Biggs' version of the play is set in Gloucester's Inn and Tavern, described as a seedy bar on the outskirts of Dover. "King" Lear, the gang's leader, disowns his youngest daughter and ignites a war between his followers. And there's a lot of combat, all professionally choreographed.

The director, an English teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia for 15 years, said she came up with the idea of setting "King Lear" in the world of a biker gang when she tried to imagine a modern setting for the play.

"Whenever I look at an older text, I want to find out what is relevant about it," Biggs said.

"King Lear" is set in a world with rigid hierarchies and extreme violence, and Biggs thought the only modern society which tolerated such parts of their culture was a biker gang.

So Biggs got to work researching biker gangs. She also cut down the three-hour play so it was more manageable.

"I tried to find what was most relevant to what I was trying to accomplish," Biggs said. "It's still very much Shakespeare, and it fits in closer than you expected.

"It's one of his most famous tragedies — that may work for or against us," Biggs added. "People may have some expectations about this play, but even if you know this play inside and out" the audience will be entertained because of the powerful stories.

"The changes are all on the surface, the story is still there at its heart. I really hope that people can see that and that they'll enjoy it," Biggs said.

The idea of setting "King Lear" in a biker bar "just tickled the hell out of us," said Rude Mechanical President Joshua Engle. Engle, who plays a small part in the play, said he was amazed how little had to be changed in the script because the language is so flexible.

"You may have seen "King Lear" before, but I guarantee you you've never seen it set in a biker bar," Engle said.

"King Lear" is the 33rd show put on by Rude Mechanicals since the group was started more than 10 years ago. In fact, it was the one that got everything started. Around 1999, just before the Rude Mechanicals was formed, some members of the group performed "King Lear" and decided that there should be a group dedicated to putting on Shakespeare's plays.

One of their most recent performances was an adaptation of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" at Capital Fringe Festival, and they are currently preparing for their upcoming performance of "The Winter's Tale" in January.

They perform about three plays a year, with two shows that people have heard of — such as "Romeo and Juliet" — and one focusing on a more obscure Shakespeare work, such as "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."

"We have a real fondness for Shakespeare plays people don't see," Engle said. "We like saying, ‘You know, there's really something here you've been missing for the past 400 years.'"

King Lear

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 4

Where: Greenbelt Arts Center, 123 Centerway Road, Greenbelt

Tickets: $15, $12 for seniors and students

Box office: 301-441-8770 or

This news item is from White Trash Networks
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