Southwest Shakespeare presents “King Lear”

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Southwest Shakespeare announces Actress Trezana Beverley will take the title role of “King Lear”, making her first appearance in Arizona in this iconic role.

Beverley, who will perform King Lear as a man, was the first African-American actress to receive a Tony Award for a play when she won in 1977 for “Best Featured Actress in a Play” for her role in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

She first took on the role of Lear for Take Wing and Soar Productions at the National Black Theatre in 2009, which was received with great audience and critical acclaim. The gender-bending casting is part of Artistic Director Ann Byrd’s expanded vision for Southwest Shakespeare, now in its 29th season.

Elizabeth Swain, nationally known for her insightful interpretations of Shakespeare’s works will direct. Performances of KING LEAR are October 14 – 29 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. Tickets start at $55 and are on sale at

Trezana’s experience with the role

“When you have some time and distance with the role and it settles in like a stew, you just learn so much more,” she explained.

Has the reaction changed with women taking on these roles?

“That’s definitely on the horizon, there are a lot of women that are playing men. It’s about being a good actor, and some actors like myself, I’m a character actress, so I can transform. There are a lot more of those roles being given to women now,” said Trezana.

How has King Lear remained authentic?

“The beginning of the stretch is to stretch people’s minds around just Trezana coming in and playing Lear. It’s also beginning to stretch the imagination of the young folks particularly the children of color, who come and see themselves portrayed on the stage. It’s stretching the imagination and make things more new and exciting,” explained Byrd.

“We see now broadway shifting and changing; I think the world is shifting quite a bit even in classical theater,” said Byrd.

Trezana Beverley/Tony-winning actress; Debra Ann Byrd/Artistic Director

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