Mother Lear, 2018

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



April/May 2018

Back by popular demand, Mother Lear traveled to a variety of Bay Area locations in April and May, 2018.

This tight 50 minutes of fiercely original theatre is created and performed by Courtney Walsh and We Players’ Artistic Director, Ava Roy. 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. The performance serves as the first act of the evening, a facilitated discussion with the audience follows as our Act Two.

MONUMENT, San Francisco
Monday, April 16, 6:30PM
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140 9th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

We're delighted to participate in "Reimagine: End of Life". This week of diverse events kicks off Monday April 16 and runs through April 22. Check out all the amazing people and programs at

Join We Players for Mother Lear at this unique community space near the Civic Center BART station. Take public transit and meet us at Monument!

About Monument: "We seek to provide a crew of the unlikely and the skilled with the infrastructure to do whatever they do best. We have built a headquarters in San Francisco — opened September 2016. The first floor is a meeting and production space for all of the group, including workshops, a theater, lounges, and a 500-person event space. The second floor has 24 private live/work bays of varying size, customizable as their inhabitants see fit. This is a space for living, not just a space where people live. We seek to balance comfortable domesticity, diligent industry, and far-flung speculation."


Marin Center, San Rafael
Tuesday April 24 & May 8, 6:30PM
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Marin Center
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA 94903

Marin Center performances and events have delighted Bay Area audiences for over 27 years. The 2015-16 season will once again spotlight acclaimed and celebrated entertainment from around the world. As the major performing arts, events center, and fairgrounds in Marin County, Marin Center serves the community by presenting and expanding a variety of multi-cultural theater presentations, affordable rental venues, and professional expertise. Bringing art, music, dance, and performance of all kinds to audiences around the Bay, attendees also enjoy visiting the beautiful Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium inspired by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


The Albany Bulb, Albany
Saturday, May 5, 12pm
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The Albany Bulb
1 Buchanan St
Albany, CA 94706

The Albany Bulb was the site of We Players' landmark performance of The Tempest in 2006, which took audiences from the Beach to the Plateau to the Amphitheater in a peripatetic comedy. Mother Lear takes place in one fixed, secluded location and seats are very limited.

The Albany Bulb is a former construction debris landfill on San Francisco Bay and is a rugged, often windy site. The performance site is a 3/4 mile walk from the parking lot over sloping, gravelly, and uneven trails. The views of the bay are spectacular from this very special slice of wild terrain.

Presented by "Love the Bulb", which celebrates and protects the art and nature of the Albany Bulb. Love the Bulb presents art, performance, environmental education and stewardship events at the Albany Bulb that celebrate its unique place in the Bay Area art and natural ecosystems.

During its Fall 2017 debut, Mother Lear was performed at McLaren Park, Montalvo Arts Center, the JCC of Berkeley and several private homes in the greater Bay Area. Because of the mobile nature of the piece we are looking to grow our reach both geographically and demographically: as we continue to perform the piece in a theatrical context we are also interested in expanding to the eldercare community. Connect with us at if you’re interested in hosting a performance or if you have a group or community that would benefit from Mother Lear.


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


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


“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

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 ten 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 periodically teaches a CSP Drama course 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

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

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.