We Players - Mother Lear 2019 - Film Project Donation Banner 1.jpg

To bring the vital experience of this award-winning production to more audiences, We Players is developing a Mother Lear film.

Mother Lear, created and performed by Courtney Walsh and Ava Roy, is a poignant production about an irascible middle-aged scholar with dementia who communicates with her caretaker daughter using only the text of King Lear as the two struggle with aging, love and their own balance of power.

We need your support

Donate here or contact We Players Artistic Director Ava Roy at agentava@weplayers.org to become an Mother Lear Film underwriter or further discuss how you can support this important work.

more about Mother Lear

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Expert Testimonials:

“As a mental health and elder care professional, We Players' production of Mother Lear touched me so deeply that I invited close friends for repeat performances as well as for the second act discussions following the play. This two-person play centers around an often-times forgetful mother – who thinks of herself as King Lear – and of her daughter as Cordelia, Lear’s daughter. The relationship between mother and daughter, the complexity and richness of Mother Lear’s forgetfulness, and the daughter’s so very intimate connection to her mother as daughter and caregiver, provides a window into how love can conquer any difficult condition we humans might face in our lives. This play also shows the potential for reciprocity, learning and growth when we move beyond simplistic labels of illness and caregiving, and do not forget the depth of human soul and heart in each of us, however they might manifest. Mother Lear is a stunning portrayal of how different our world could be if we mirrored the loving relatedness between mother and daughter we see in this play, in relationships between elders, people with diverse abilities and in different states of mind, and their carers and supporters. It is an exceptional and inspiring performance showing possibilities in human relatedness and care which remind us of our humanity and what really matters.
-Nader Shabahangi, PH. D
Founder and CEO of AgeSong Assisted Living

“Within the long term care industry, we aspire to treat our residents/participants/clients with dignity and respect. However, it isn’t always present at the actual care level. Tasks are tasks and caregivers go through the day checking off their lists of to-do’s. There is little connection or relationship between the caregiver and the care-receiver. Even when the caregiver is a family member, the connection that was once present is strained by the stresses and challenges of forgetfulness or some unwelcomed behavior. The caregiver shields him/herself by distancing instead of embracing the care-receiver. Mother Lear, a two character drama illustrates what relational care can provide. A real connection that need not be grounded in any one reality, but only the reality of “now”. Mother Lear shows the beauty and heartaches of relational caregiving. It provokes rich discussions and introspection around caregiving. As such it has enriched and improved caregiving—taking care with dignity and respect to another level of reality.
-Peter Szutu, MPH
Former President and CEO of Center for Elders’ Independence

"As a hospital chaplain with advanced training in palliative care and grief work, I wish I could make Mother Lear required in medical centers, retirement communities and progressive art venues nationwide. This beautiful production is poignant, engaging, heart-wrenching and heart-opening, rightfully laced with cause for laughter and tears. The acting is flawless with nothing held back. Engaging with this mother/daughter dilemma demands we ask the questions facing us all, especially the aging baby boomers. How do we want to age? How can we befriend death's approach rather than turn away, informing our choices with intention.”
-Pegi Walker
UCSF Chaplain and Coordinator of Music is Good Medicine

“Stunning. Heartbreaking. Funny at times. Incredibly smart and clever. The work was just beautiful to watch. And a true gift.”
-Kelly Hudson
Managing Director of Montalvo Arts Center

+ The Buzz
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"...We Players’ heartbreaking two-woman “King Lear” remix"
East Bay Times: Heartbreaking two-woman ‘Lear’ revived in Berkeley

"...a winding emotional journey"
Theatrius: Roy & Walsh Stir Souls with King Lear Mash-Up

Marin Independent Journal: Mother Lear included in Year's Best Marin Theatre

"an eloquent voice" The Mercury News: We Players uses ‘Lear’ to talk about aging in the 21st century

Marin Independent Journal: Mother-daughter ‘Lear’ captures heartbreak of dementia


“Eloquent, stirring, and darkly funny.”

“Filled with beauty and humor. Intellectually challenging.”

“A slice of life that allows (demands if it is a sticky play) that we complete it ourselves - it’s harder to leave it on the stage when we leave the theatre.”

“One of the most impactful performances I’ve seen in my life.”

“I felt everyone stop and be still like the trees around us.”

“I was left with a powerful sense of love.”

“The piece spoke to the universality of loss of control in the face of aging, death and grief.”

+ The Cast
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Courtney Walsh: Lear
Courtney Walsh is delighted to return to the incomparable We Players. After earning a B.A. in Theater Studies at Yale University, she acted professionally in Los Angeles. During an acting hiatus, she earned a law degree to represent children in child abuse cases, returning to the stage in 2006. Since then, she has appeared on national and international stages, both in English and French (including Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Montpellier, Cardiff, Athens, Corfu, Sydney, and Auckland). Bay Area credits include: Cutting Ball Theater (title role in Phèdre); Marin Theatre Company (Native Son – West Coast premiere); San Francisco Playhouse (Jerusalem, and Seared – world premiere); We Players (Romeo and Juliet); New Conservatory Theatre Center (Dear Harvey), and many others. For Moby Dick – Rehearsed at Stanford Repertory Theater (where she has been a core company member for twelve years) she won Theatre Bay Area Awards for Outstanding Production, Directing and Acting Ensemble. Her solo show Clytemnestra: Tangled Justice has toured eight countries over three continents. Courtney has taught CSP Drama courses at Stanford University and workshops on acting in the U.S. and Europe. She is also a mother of four and a competitive equestrienne. Find her at courtneywalsh.net

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

Ava Roy: Cordelia
Ava Roy is the Founding Artistic Director of We Players. Her unique style of interactive, site-integrated performance aims to highlight the historical and natural treasures of the local landscape and encourage new ways of experiencing and appreciating these places. She is an alumna of Stanford University, where she founded We Players in the spring of 2000. She holds a BA in a self-designed major: Ritual and Performance in Aesthetic Education, 2003. Since 2008, she has pioneered unique partnerships with both the National Park Service and the California State Park system, creating large-scale performances at park sites throughout the Bay Area. Inspired and guided by Shakespeare since her teenage years, Ava has explored many characters from the canon ranging from Juliet to Henry V, Mercutio to Lady Macbeth. In addition to her love of Shakespeare, classic literature, historic sites, crumbling buildings, and majestic natural landscapes, Ava likes espresso, salt spray, and sunshine. She is a yoga teacher, a sailor, and in her next life, plans to live in the ocean.

+ Previous Facilitators
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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, is over 94.