Online production of ‘Lear’ bumped to Sept.

In “King Lear,” William Shakespeare wrote, “The weight of this sad time we must obey.”

The weight of technological challenges in these sad times also must be obeyed.

After announcing the online production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” would premiere this weekend, director Michael Dempsey said Monday he is pushing the premiere until September.

“The job of editing and effects was just too massive to do properly that fast,” he said. “Another part of our learning curve.”

“King Lear” originally was planned as a live production that would have been staged in July at Youngstown State University’s Ford Theater as part of its Summer Festival of the Arts. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the festival and all live theater, Dempsey reimagined it as an online production, working with local actors as well as performers from several states and the United Kingdom.

Dempsey created a makeshift film studio at Infinity Dance and Performing Arts in Boardman, where some of the local actors shot their performances. However, most of the actors used everything from cellphones to other cameras to capture their own performances.

“The challenge is taking the footage from all of these recording devices and putting it together to look coherent,” Dempsey said. “Most professional productions use the same camera for everything.”

Dempsey initially delayed the debut and decided to release each act separately rather than premiere the full production at once to give him more time to create a production worthy of the performances delivered by the cast.

“I didn’t want to have a Zoom ‘Brady Bunch’ version of ‘King Lear’ with all of these squares (on screen),” he said. “The whole world is trying to figure out how to do this. Everyone is doing it at the same time. I think we’re sort of out front in developing these things.”

It became clear over the weekend that “King Lear” couldn’t be completed in August.

Act 1 of the five-act tragedy now will premiere 7 p.m. Sept. 2 on YouTube with a new act being released 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 30. Behind-the-scenes footage will be presented in August leading up to the debut, and a Facebook Live Q&A with Dempsey and some of the cast is planned in conjunction with the Act 1 premiere.


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