Mother Lear, 2017

"...that way madness lies" - King Lear

Courtney Walsh (Mercutio in We Players’ 2016 Romeo & Juliet) as ‘Lear’
and Artistic Director Ava Roy as ‘Cordelia’


Mother Lear will be shared in a variety of unique and intimate Bay Area venues:

Sunday October 8, 5pm:
Jewish Community Center of the East Bay
North Berkeley

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

Saturday and Sunday, October 28 & 29, 4pm:
McLaren Park
San Francisco

At stunning private homes:

Saturday, September 30, 5:30pm, San Francisco
October 1 and October 7, 4pm: San Anselmo
November 4: Tiburon

Additional dates and venues are still being added! 

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

An irascible scholar with dementia communicates with her caretaker daughter using only the text of Shakespeare's King Lear, as the two struggle with aging, love, and their own balance of power.

First premiered in autumn 2014, 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 Lear. The piece invites us to explore our own relationship to mortality, death and loss - and how we might move from fear to acceptance. 

This two-person, one-hour distillation of King Lear is designed to invite conversations about the meaning and experience of death. After each performance a special guest whose life’s work involves the dying will share thoughts and host a general conversation among those who wish to participate.

+ FAQ - click to expand

How long is the performance?
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!

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

Answers to the below questions will be added soon!
How do I get there?

Where do I park?

What about food and drinks?

What should I wear?

What is the recommended age for youths attending this production?

+ 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 Venues

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."

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

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.