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Mother Lear

We Players - Mother Lear 2017 v2 - 750px.jpg

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

September 30 - November 4, 2017

Mother Lear Program Guide

Mother Lear is a tight 50 minutes of fiercely original theatre. A moving production about a middle-aged woman who navigates dementia with the help of her daughter - communicating only through the language of Shakespeare's King Lear

Cordelia and her irascible mother, a former Shakespeare scholar and proud matriarch, confront dementia, loss, and fraught family dynamics armed only with humor, compassion, and the poetry of Shakespeare's words. This potent new two-character play is immediately followed by a facilitated discussion led by special guests who work in the field of compassionate care. This "Act Two" conversation will explore themes of aging, dementia, caregiving, and end of life. 

Presented in multiple unique venues, Mother Lear wanders the land this fall. A park, a home, a garden... where will you find her? VERY LIMITED engagement for this intimate performance. 

Preview audiences are saying:

"eloquent, stirring, and darkly funny"

"deeply touching and surprisingly funny"

JCC East Bay, Berkeley
Sunday, October 8, 5pm
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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, 14 & 15, 5:30pm
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

Courtney Walsh appears in this production courtesy of Actors' Equity Association

+ 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.

Alisa is currently the executive director of Gordon Manor, a memory care and assisted living community in Redwood City. She has been working with people living with dementia and their families for over 20 years. Alisa holds degrees in both Human Biology and Medical Anthropology.

Thomas has spent years in hospice work and has been with numerous people during the dying process. Thomas has served as a Hospice Aide, Chaplain, Bodyworker and Psychotherapist.

Alanna wanted to be an actress when she grew up. While this dream never quite manifested, and she found herself studying cognitive science in college and then found her way into world of marketing and advertising, she remains fascinated by the theater. Today, she is the San Francisco Producer of Re:Imagine | End-of-Life - a community-driven, city-wide festival exploring death and celebrating life. It features an emergent network of artists, storytellers, healthcare professionals, religious communities, and innovators, banding together to amplify the end-of-life conversation. Having experienced significant loss in recent years (to put it lightly, her family went extinct), Alanna's understanding and empathy enable her to connect deeply with others on this difficult topic.

Brad uses insights from the fields of positive psychology, business, and sociology to design meaningful cultural experiences and spark innovation within organizations and communities. In partnership with IDEO, he recently launched a new brand called Re:Imagine, which works with cities to hold meaningful conversations around taboo topics. Be on the lookout next April in San Francisco for the Re:Imagine | End of Life festival, exploring death and celebrating life via art, experiences, and conversation. Brad's background in palliative care stems from his role as founder of the Sunbeam Foundation, a 501(c)3 that identifies and supports cutting edge research for rare and underfunded pediatric cancers, which he founded in memory of his friend Sara. Brad graduated with an M.A. in Organizational Behavior from Stanford University and received his M.B.A. from Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, where he has served as coach/lecturer on the topics of design and innovation. He is a contributing writer on positive organizational psychology for the Greater Good Science Center and is the author of the young adult award-winner, Breakfast on Mars (Macmillan, 2014).

Elizabeth is a facilitator and former business strategist who is now pursuing a life-long call to interfaith ministry with a focus on chaplaincy. She has her own consultancy and used to lead sales and marketing teams for big tech companies like Lucent and Salesforce and ran non-profits like the Professional BusinessWomen of California and the East Bay chapter of the Women Presidents’ Organization. Elizabeth lives in Piedmont. She has led adventure travel programs to Machu Picchu for the past 10 years, and is a published poet and memoirist. She is a mom of teenagers - one who is applying to colleges now. Her very active world-traveling father, who lives independently in Philadelphia, will be 94 next week.

+ Resources - Inspiring People and Organizations

We have been meeting so many incredible people and discovering a plethora of resources through our Mother Lear research and outreach. While the following list is partial, we are excited to introduce you to some of the inspiring people and organizations that we have encountered thus far.

Aging With Dignity's "Five Wishes"
An advance healthcare directive, also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. In the U.S. it has a legal status in itself, whereas in some countries it is legally persuasive without being a legal document. Aging With Dignity is a private, non-profit organization with a mission to safeguard the human dignity of people as they age or face serious illness.

Right to Die initiatives
The right to die is a concept based on the belief that a human being is entitled to end their own life or to undergo voluntary euthanasia. Possession of this right is often understood to mean that a person with a terminal illness should be allowed to end their own life or to use assisted suicide or to decline life-prolonging treatment. The question of who, if anyone, should be empowered to make this decision is often central to debate.

AgeSong is the leading eldercare lifestyle provider in the San Francisco Bay Area. AgeSong enables residents to customize their lifestyle based on personal preference, religious affiliation, and medical needs. Care choices range from short-term rehabilitation to permanent residence.

AgeSong’s fundamental belief is that through providing elders with the opportunity to live a balanced lifestyle, elders can be who they truly are. In paying attention to the needs of the individual and of the community, AgeSong offers complete lifestyle options including balanced nutritional selections, mental health and physical fitness programs, engagement activities, and continued learning and teaching opportunities.

The Palliative Care Program at UCSF
UCSF Medical Center's Palliative Care Program is dedicated to relieving pain and suffering and providing compassionate care and comfort for seriously ill patients and their families. Palliative care can be helpful for people at any stage of a serious illness and can be provided concurrently with curative medical treatment. The goal of palliative care is to maximize a patient's comfort, by providing expert pain and symptom management, offering guidance with treatment decisions so that treatment aligns with a patient's goals for care, and helping families cope with serious illness.

Palliative care is commonly seen as a way to improve the quality of a person's last phase of life. At UCSF Medical Center, the service is available to others, when appropriate, at any stage of serious illness such as cancer, chronic liver disease, emphysema, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke. All patients can ask their doctor or nurse for a consultation with the Palliative Care Program.

Zen Hospice Project
The mission of the Zen Hospice Project is to help change the experience of dying. We create a space for living that offers the opportunity for individuals, their loved ones and caregivers to find comfort, connection, and healing in this shared human experience. Through our pioneering model of care, we inspire each other to live fully.

Re:Imagine is co-created by a loose network of interested artists, storytellers, healthcare professionals, innovators, designers, organizations and individuals, banding together to amplify the end-of-life conversation. Re:Imagine was created in collaboration with IDEO, where it was inspired by OpenIDEO’s End of Life Challenge. The End of Life Challenge reached thousands of online and offline participants around the world, helping remove the taboo around death and dying to create a global and solutions-oriented conversation. Re:Imagine builds on that experience, bringing forward optimism and innovation and providing a platform for many outstanding organizations and individuals working to elevate this topic.

Earlier Event: September 23
Canciones del Mar 2017
Later Event: November 10
Sites and Sounds