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Susan Tsu – King Lear


    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….

    Production Credits


    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

    Crafts Personnel
    Alexa James Cardenas
    Jessica Cronin
    Maggie McGrann

    Volunteer Quilters – The very good friends of Quantum Theatre

    Photographer – Heather Mull