Tuesday, September 25

Redgrave brings the personal onstage


Redgrave brings the personal onstage

One-woman play mixes Shakespeare with own biography

By John Mangum

No matter how broad her experience as an actress becomes, Tony
award-winning Lynn Redgrave always returns to Shakespeare.

Ranking among the most versatile and best-known actresses today,
Redgrave has performed in too many different productions in too
many different genres to count.

Considering her family and childhood, this stature becomes
almost a forgone conclusion. Redgrave, the youngest daughter of
renowned Shakespearean actor Sir Michael Redgrave, grew up
surrounded by luminaries of the British theatre.

"It was quite as awe-inspiring as anyone might think it would
be," concedes the actress. "I grew up in an era when children felt
this sense of awe about their elders anyway."

"We weren’t romping around the living room playing tag when we
had guests over," Redgrave says. "I realized how special the
artists were who came to visit."

Some of these visitors included Sir Laurence Olivier, Richard
Burton and playwright Noel Coward. They turn up as characters in
her play "Shakespeare for my Father" which appears Oct. 7-9 at the
UCLA Freud Playhouse as part of the UK/LA festival.

Strictly a solo performer in this production, Redgrave assumes
all of the roles in the play. The plot weaves biographical sections
with scenes drawn from the writings of William Shakespeare.

"The play is about my search for reconciliation with my father’s
memory," Redgrave says. "My father happened to be a great actor,
but to me he seemed faceless. The play allows me to finally reach
him in some way."

Redgrave’s use of Shakespeare facilitates this. "I grew up
knowing my father through the great Shakespearean roles. I believed
that if I could get on stage with him, I would somehow find
him."

Now, by performing scenes her father once did, Redgrave is
examining his role in her life. She selected scenes which matched
the experiences she relates in the play.

"I had a scene and looked for something that would match it,"
says the actress. "Some things came as easy choices. There’s a
scene with my nanny and me, and out of it they become Juliet and
her nurse."

Redgrave wrote "Shakespeare for my Father," which her husband,
theatre veteran John Clarke directs. The play began when the Folger
Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. invited the actress to
perform for their members.

From there, it eventually reached Broadway, where the production
enjoyed a nine month run. The unique approach the play takes to
both autobiography and Shakespeare no doubt accounts for its
success.

Currently touring throughout the United States and Canada,
"Shakespeare for my Father" presents one woman exploring her own
life without the help of other cast members. Redgrave believes that
this results in a different stage experience.

"What you don’t have is taking energy from the other people. My
collaboration is really with the audience. I get a lot of energy
from them."

The audience produces energy both on account of her performance
and what she performs. Redgrave feels that audiences really react
to Shakespeare.

"He goes on speaking to generation after generation," Redgrave
says. "The sheer scope and size of his characters ­ the real
modern humanity of them ­ makes it always fascinating."

For Redgrave, every audience reacts differently to her play.
Students, she says with obvious appreciation, see Shakespeare in a
clear way.

"The thing about young audiences is that they don’t have
preconceived notions. They have a much fresher approach," she
says.

She perceptively describes the difference between students and
more seasoned theatre audiences. "People get highfalutin after
they’ve seen 20 Hamlets. Students look at it fresh and either
believe it or don’t believe it. I find it very gratifying."

Redgrave appears this morning at Melnitz Hall, where she will
talk about the play and her experiences as an actress.

"The play is about what it is to be an actor ­ fleeting
that it is and noble that it is ­ how sad and lonely and
exciting a thing it is," Redgrave says.

An odyssey of self-discovery for the actress and, she believes,
for her audience as well, "Shakespeare for my Father" allows
Redgrave to finally come to terms with the father she loved and
admired.

The actress grew up playing Cordelia to her father’s King Lear.
Redgrave realizes this, and tries to come to terms with it by
performing a scene between the father and daughter in her play.
"Cordelia was the daughter who could not speak to her father, but
she loved him so much."

Redgrave pours this love, as well as a passion for the
Shakespeare that was an inseparable part of her father, into a
production examining a relationship everyone can identify with.

THEATRE: "Shakespeare for my Father," starring Lynn Redgrave.
Presented by the Center for the Performing Arts. Co-produced by LA
Theatre Works and the UK/LA Foundation. At the Freud Playhouse Oct.
7-9. Tickets $25, $9. For more info, call 825-2101.

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