The emotional journey of a king divesting his kingdom of worldly goods and military might- first willingly, then in fits of anger- is not unfamiliar to any aging parent who has downsized and been treated like a child by their own children. In 2019, Quantum Theatre, Pittsburgh’s brilliant site-specific, nomadic theatre company, paired this great Shakespearean play with the Carrie Blast Furnace, one of the only surviving pre-WWII blast furnaces in the United States.
This rare and singular coupling was set on acres of riverfront landscape largely returned to nature, the magnificent, rusting behemoth yawns like a primordial dinosaur, recalling for Pittsburghers, their once heralded fame as the world’s largest producers of steel. Backed by the monstrous blast furnace towering over the actors, our King Lear began with the urgent union call of “Which Side Are You On?” sung by Monteze Freeland, who played Kent.
The major themes of Shakespeare’s play: questions of filial piety, loyalty, worth, identity through possessions and military might, power, control, how to tease out truth, how to recover oneself after loss…all came to be doubly considered not only from the point of view of the play, but also from the point of view of Pittsburgh history, economy, ego and pride. The event became a rare self-reckoning. The gauntlet was doubly thrown. Two great histories. Two great tragedies. Wisdom forged by unspeakable sorrow cleared a path toward enlightenment.
Listen- and you can hear the wind that tore through the interior of steel mills between workers. Close your eyes, and you can see the molten steel splashing onto the worker’s boots and catching them on fire. Listen again, and the bass clang of metal against metal deep in the belly of the beast reverberates and sets the scene….
CARRIE BLAST FURNACE- PITTSBURGH, PA
Playwright – William Shakespeare
Director – Risher Reddick
Choreographer – Randy Kovitz
Scene Design – Tony Ferrieri
Lighting Design – C. Todd Brown
Sound Design – Steve Shapiro
Fight Choreographer – Randy Kovitz
Tech Director – Hank Bullington
Production Stage Manager – Michelle Engleman
Stage Manager – Cor God
Assistant Costume Design – Damian Dominguez
Lead Cape Draper/Topographist – Cordelia – Lara Berich
Draper – Marlene Speranza
Alexa James Cardenas
Volunteer Quilters – The very good friends of Quantum Theatre
Photographer – Heather Mull