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Q&A with the Director of King Lear

Director Vincent J. Cardinal

Vincent J. Cardinal brings vast experience to his direction of King Lear this summer at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. He has directed across the country, including work at the Festival: The Foreigner in 2018, Every Brilliant Thing in 2019, and The Comedy of Errors in 2021. He is excited to accept the challenge of making “a production that tells the story clearly and honestly while being entertaining and moving.” Find out what else he has to say about this stormy and majestic tragedy. 

The Utah Shakespeare Festival: As playgoers, what should we watch for in this play that would help us enjoy/understand it better? Are there any special “easter eggs” you have implemented into the play as a director?

Director Vincent J. Cardinal: It is the story of a king who demands love and admiration and, through a series of epic reckonings, becomes a man who has earned love and respect. It is also the story of two families. There is King Lear and his three daughters and the Earl of Gloucester and his sons. Each family grapples, in their unique ways, to secure their futures. An image that audiences might appreciate is that of fire. It can illuminate and it can destroy. It can purify and it can ruin. Lear states: “But I am bound upon a wheel of fire, / That mine own tears do scald like molten lead.” In our production, audiences might take note of how fire is used throughout the play.

The Festival: What statement/ realization/ feeling do you hope audience members leave with after seeing the play?

Cardinal: I hope they are delighted by how robust and entertaining this great tragedy is when experienced live with great actors at the top of their craft.

The Festival: Why should people come see this play?

Cardinal: King Lear is one of the finest tragedies in the English language. There is great joy in experiencing the virtuosity of excellent actors speaking this text, breathing truth into these epic emotions, and telling a thrilling story that reminds us that love and community are more important than wealth and power.

The Festival: What challenges do you expect to come with directing this play? 

Cardinal: Time. With a play this rich and with such a storied history of productions, I wish we had months to rehearse.

The Festival: Why are you excited to direct this play?

Cardinal: There is nothing like live theatre under the stars in southern Utah with this amazing company and this supportive community. The Utah Shakespeare Festival offers the opportunity to collaborate with some of our nation’s best designers, technicians, artisans, and management teams, not to mention a company of seasoned and rising actors. The Festival audience is smart, supportive, and terrifically enthusiastic. It is always exciting to work on first-rate plays with this community. I am so grateful to Brian Vaughn and Frank Mack for including me. King Lear challenges all of us to make a production that tells the story clearly and honestly while being entertaining and moving. It is amazing to be challenged at this level, as a team, by the greatest playwright in the English language. 

The Festival: How long have you been directing plays? How long have you been with the Festival? Why are you a director?

Cardinal: My first professional directing job was at eighteen years old, but every production feels thrillingly like the first time. Directing is about creating the context for other artists to employ their genius in service of a shared story. I am a huge fan of theatre people and love to see them join forces and use their talents to illuminate what it is to be a human for a live audience.

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