Theater interview: Rafael Jordan of “King Lear” at the Wallis

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Actor Rafael Jordan (#HashtagTheShow, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) is pleased to play Edmund in a new production of King Lear at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in Los Angeles, for many reasons. He joked about a practical consideration during our phone call, flashing back to 2015 when he played Most Heroic Brother Edgar at the California Shakespeare Theater.

“It’s fun now to be the other brother who stays indoors and doesn’t have to be outside in the cold, half-naked, especially since this one was an outdoor production” , said Jordan. “You can imagine how we didn’t really have to be cold. The nights outside in California are always chilly!

On setting King Lear in a dark future

Lear is the story of the old chief who memorably banishes his favorite daughter and divides his kingdom between the other two daughters, sparking a power struggle. Joe Morton (Let me go, Scandal) stars as Lear, directed by John Gould Rubin. The Wallis production, which runs until June 6, reimagines the world as a “future American dystopia.” It incorporates technology as well as aspects of destruction related to environmental issues.

During initial discussions with Rubin, Jordan recalls being intrigued by the piece. “It immediately reminded me of one of my favorite authors, Octavia Butler. She has a great book called parable of the sower, [which] takes place in LA County. I feel like I’m in one of my favorite books while I’m doing Shakespeare. »

In addition to acting, Jordan studied directing and worked as a director. The sketch comedy #HashtagTheShow, which he wrote and produced with his sister, Aisha Jordan, was recently picked up by kweliTV. His past experiences in directing and in plays using mixed media are different from what he does in Lear. “As Edmund, I exploit a lot of the live video that is projected on the screens. With that, there is the idea of ​​close-ups and framing. We are in this new era where everything wants be portrait because it has to integrate with Instagram.

Rafael Jordan as Edmund (Credit: Jason Williams)

On Edmund’s Game

When it comes to playing bad guys, Jordan points out that having “specific justification” is key for their actions. From this first rationale, an actor can build with more reasons for the villain’s journey through the room.

“As Edmund, I am in turmoil. Then I see King Lear doing this really messed up kind of thing… I learn that you have to get what you need by any means necessary. It really motivates me that these are necessary evils for a greater good in fact.

Edmund’s ruse begins in the first half of the play, scenes that Jordan ranks among his favorites. “They all run together in a sequence. I go straight from cheating on my dad to cheating on my brother and speaking to the public. This sequence throws me and the game goes out of canon.

Jordan credits the camaraderie and teamwork between actors and creatives for finding the right energy and authenticity in the scenes. “In terms of raw power and real emotion, these moments are sort of created naturally. You stay grounded in the size that they want to be. Then there are the constraints of doing this for an audience and making it for each other There is a need to communicate in order to be understood, not just emotionally but practically.

King Lear production by Rafael Jordan and Mark Harelik at a dining table on stage
Rafael Jordan as Edmund and Mark Harelik as Gloucester (Credit: Jason Williams)

On music and staging

This Lear features unique musical composition and sound design by Danny Erdberg and Ursula Kwong-Brown. Jordan loved having the composers in the rehearsal room because “it feeds so much” into other aspects of the show, whether it’s directly supporting the action or even something the actors need to “counter”. There’s also sound to help create electrical storms and media issues.

At the Bram Goldsmith Theater in Wallis, Lear takes place in circles. Jordan enjoys how a round setup allows a viewer to see how other audience members in front of them are reacting to a scene. Along with the opportunities, there are also challenges for players to consider. “Have a 360° awareness versus a front-stage awareness. In the lap in particular, make sure you don’t block someone for too long. The audience will stick with you.

The cast and creators of Wallis believe that audiences will find this production exciting. “We are attacking Lear differently,” Jordan said. “Even though there’s a lot of technology, media and fantasy elements, there’s also a lot of humanity and heart that creates a different relationship for the audience with these characters.”

Visit The Wallis website for schedule and tickets.

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