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Mother Lear

Featuring  Courtney Walsh as ‘Lear’ and Artistic Director Ava Roy as ‘Cordelia’. 

First premiered in autumn 2014 as King Fool, this new take on our distilled two-person King Lear features powerful female performers in a fraught mother-daughter relationship.

The mother is the monarch of her story and her imagination chooses the most epic death (Lear’s) to emulate in her final hour; her caretaker daughter becomes Cordelia, Fool and a host of other voices, conducting her mother to her last breath. Their story, one of the familiar and familial struggles of age, pride, regret, power, forgiveness and love, is played out through the incomparable text of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The piece invites us to explore our own relationship to mortality, death and loss - and how we might move from fear to acceptance.

JCC East Bay, Berkeley
Sunday, October 8, 5pm

The Jewish Center of the East Bay, Berkeley
The JCC East Bay is a welcoming, inspiring home for people of all ages and life stages. Our mission is to create healthy communities inspired by Jewish values, culture and tradition. The JCC serves and reflects the diverse residents of the East Bay, offering physical gathering spaces for the Jewish and broader community.

Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga
Thursday - Sunday, October 12-15, 5:30pm

Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga
Located on 175 acres in Silicon Valley's Saratoga Hills, Montalvo Arts Center is a member-supported non-profit institution whose mission is to engage the public in the creative process. Acting as a catalyst for exploring the arts, unleashing creativity, and advancing different cross-cultural perspectives, Montalvo serves nearly a quarter million patrons every year with vibrant, relevant, and accessible arts and education programs. For more information, visit

Saturday and Sunday, October 28 & 29, 4pm

McLaren Park, San Francisco

Discover San Francisco’s second-largest park ! In addition to playgrounds, picnic areas and game courts, you’ll find the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, a golf course, McNab Lake and the newly renovated Coffman Pool. This immense Natural Area of scenic meadows, grassland and wetland habitat includes more than 7 miles of walking trails meander through its 312 acres, replete with native plants and wildlife. Established in 1927, the park is named for John McLaren, the "grandfather of Golden Gate Park."

At stunning private homes:

A Private Residence, San Francisco
Saturday, September 30, 5:30pm

Enjoy an autumn evening on the rooftop deck of this beautifully converted warehouse in San Francisco's SOMA district. Savory bites will be paired with wine from Rasmussen Winery.

A Private Residence, San Anselmo
Saturday & Sunday, October 1 & 7, 4pm

This sleek modern villa is a bridge spanning a seasonal creek, with acres of protected lands stretching into the hills beyond. A short, steep hike up through classic golden California landscape will bring you to a magical grove of live oaks where the performance will take place.

A Private Residence, San Francisco
Friday, November 3, 7pm

Join We Players for Mother Lear in an historic San Francisco "Painted Lady", alongside Alamo Square Park. Built in 1892, the home’s 2015 renovation by hosts Charlene Li and Come Lague integrates modern luxury while preserving the historic beauty. Witness our newest performance by the light of gas chandeliers as the sun sets through original stained glass. Enjoy a selection of sumptuous hors d'oeuvres and delicious wines from our hosts' Amador County vineyard. This unique and exclusive performance experience is not to be missed!

A Private Residence, Tiburon
Saturday, November 4, 3pm

A short trip north of San Francisco takes you to this elegant Tiburon home. Nosh on afternoon tea and cookies as you take in the stunning vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge over the bay.

Additional dates and venues are still being added! 

Join our community mailing list to get early access to tickets!

+ FAQ - click to expand

How long is the event?
Approximately 2 hours.

The first half of the performance is a little over an hour. After a short intermission, the audience reconvenes along with the performers and special guests for a community conversation about the project themes of death, dying, grief, loss and healing. Restrooms are accessible before the show begins and during intermission.

How accessible is this production?
Mobility needs can be accommodated and will be addressed on a case by case basis, please contact We Players at to request assistance.

My budget is very limited, how can I get discounted tickets?
You can join the Mother Lear Rush Ticket Mailing List for a chance at last-minute half-price tickets if they become available.

This project looks really interesting! Can I volunteer with We Players?
Absolutely! Please contact us at and we can get the conversation started!

How do I get there? Where do I park?
After purchasing tickets, see your Event Reminder email for the full details. This will be sent a few days before the performance.

What is the recommended age for children attending this production?
Intergenerational sharing is an important part of Mother Lear, and youth are welcome to attend. Parents and guardians, please be aware that the performance and its post-performance discussion deal with many topics related to death and dying.

What if my question is not answered here?
For questions about the production and performance, please contact We Players at

+ The Cast

Courtney Walsh: Lear
Ava Roy: Cordelia

+ About the performance

Ava Roy, the founder of We Players, and actress Courtney Walsh have created a two-woman theatrical piece about an aging mother and her caretaker daughter, constructed solely from language of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Based on an earlier distillation of the Lear story (King Fool), Roy and Walsh have plumbed the depths of Shakespeare’s language to explore the themes of family, aging, pride, control, and mortality.

In Mother Lear, a formerly brilliant Shakespeare scholar, descending into dementia, can communicate only through the remembered text of King Lear. “Lear” (Walsh) is determined to end her life on her own terms, as her grip on reality succumbs to her imagined identity as King Lear. Discovering her mother surrounded by treasured possessions and an ominous bottle of pills, “Cordelia” (Roy), must try to reach her mother through the only language she recognizes. Donning a variety of personas from Shakespeare’s play, from the loyal friend Kent, to the manipulative daughter Goneril, to the irreverent Fool, Cordelia engages her mother in the difficult conversations they had never managed to negotiate prior to her illness. Through this artificial construct, they achieve authentic communication.

Audiences will re-discover the magic of the bard’s gift for expression, as two relatable modern characters find that Shakespeare’s words exceed their own in exploring difficult subjects like regret and death. At the same time, affection and intimacy blossom with Shakespeare’s humor and lyricism. These are the conversations we all must have, and the audience is invited to join in conversation following every performance.

+ About the Facilitators

Nader received his Doctorate from Stanford University, is a licensed psychotherapist, and is cofounder of AgeSong. His multicultural background has fueled his passion for becoming an advocate for marginalized groups and for creating programs with the purpose of caring more comprehensively for elders. As CEO, Nader ensures that the company’s vision drives its decisions and plans for elder care services. In 1992, Nader also founded the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit organization that defines its mission as one of helping elders live meaningful lives. Nader is a frequent guest lecturer, including presenting at international conferences focusing on aging, counseling, and dementia. In 2003 he authored Faces of Aging, a book challenging stereotypical views of the aging process and of growing old. In 2008 he co-authored Deeper Into the Soul, a book aimed at de-stigmatizing and broadening our understanding of dementia. In 2009 he co-authored Conversations With Ed, a book challenging readers to look at dementia in different ways. In 2011 he published Elders Today, a photo and text book that cherishes aging and old age as a most desirable phase of our lives. Celebrating the intergenerational dialogue between young and old, Nader edited and published Encounters of the Real Kind in 2012. This book is a collection of stories and anecdotes that pay tribute to the deep and life-changing encounters between elders and those learning to become elders.

Shoshana got her start as a writer for a magazine called Bikini (no jokes) for whom she interviewed Jeff Buckley and Allen Ginsburg. That led to writing for the New York Times, SPIN, WIRED, and a stint as the editorial director (more like “cool-hunter”) for Young & Rubicam. With little more than a fuzzy idea and a boil in the blood, she went on to found ReadyMade, a national do-it-yourself design magazine. The venture was funded by 10 credit cards. (Her credit rating is excellent). ReadyMade was a finalist for National Magazine Awards in 2005 and 2006. After co-authoring the book ReadyMade: How to Make Almost Everything (Clarkson Potter), she sold the business to the Meredith Corp., publisher of Better Homes & Gardens. Shoshana then joined WIRED as director of special projects in 2011, and launched a new website, WIRED Design. She landed at IDEO in 2013 as editorial director and hasn't looked back.

Earlier Event: September 23
Canciones del Mar 2017
Later Event: November 9
Sites and Sounds