Theater company brings Shakespeare to steel

For more than a century, steel mills churning along Pittsburgh’s three rivers helped define the region as one of the world’s largest steel-making capitals until the collapse of the industry in the 1980s. Now, ruins of the industry loom massive and rusting, a reminder of power and loss. Where better to stage a production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear?”

Quantum Theatre is using the backdrop of the Carrie Furnace for its production of the bard’s bleakest tragedy, which tells of grief and madness, family values gone wrong and a powerful king brought low.

“Pittsburgh was once a giant in that particular space. You can’t be at the site without feeling the enormity of industry and the enormity of the fact that the industry collapsed and we were stripped as a region of this power,” said Karla Boos, artistic director and founder of the theatre company. “All very wonderful metaphors for King Lear.”

The Carrie Furnaces are the last remaining structures of what was once the thrumming heart of the Homestead Steel Works, which produced steel used in the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and other iconic structures. The furnaces along the Monongahela River were built in the 1880s and operated until 1982. Only furnaces No. 6 and No. 7 remain. They’re among the only surviving pre-World War II blast furnaces in the United States, and are designated National Historic Landmarks.

They were also the site of one of the nation’s most dramatic and deadly labour conflicts. In 1892, a labour dispute at the Homestead Works turned violent when striking workers battled armed guards, a pivotal episode in the history of the country’s labour movement. That history also fits into the violence of the play, Boos said.

After Act 1 in the shadow of blast furnace, the audience — armed with flashlights — takes a quarter-mile walk to a garden amid a circle of trees, surrounded by acres of nature that’s reclaimed itself at the site. It’s meant to evoke the English countryside.

“You go from a kind of majesty to a circle of trees in this wilderness, and experience the end of the play so intimately,” Boos said.

Director Risher Reddick was especially interested in exploring how Lear is reduced to his most basic elements, as the site of the former blast furnace has been.

“What remains is the question, and it’s a very great question for Pittsburgh,” she said. “And a lot remains. We’ve reinvented ourselves.”

“King Lear” runs through June 2.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is cancelling his planned trip to… Continue reading

Town of Ponoka facing lawsuit from pair of local residents

Ponoka town council members and administration have been served with a lawsuit… Continue reading

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

TYENDINAGA, Ont. — Hours of talks between the federal government and representatives… Continue reading

Red Deer County investing in fibre optics

County investing $7 million over two years to improve Internet connections

Fashion Fridays: Apple body types: What you need to know

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 6 A Perogie Supper is being held Thursday, Feb. 6 from… Continue reading

Woman loses 50 pairs of shoes after boyfriend accidentally donates them to thrift store

Cassandra Converse can’t wait to go shoe shopping. Last month, Converse’s boyfriend… Continue reading

RDC Queens fall in double OT to MacEwan University Griffins

Griffins 4 Queens 3 (2OT) The RDC Queens managed to salvage a… Continue reading

Trump takes Daytona 500 warmup lap in presidential limousine

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump gave an election-year embrace to… Continue reading

Canada expected to support heavy fuel ban in Arctic despite costs to northerners

The federal government is expected to support international measures that would reduce… Continue reading

Nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

OTTAWA — The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions is warning that the… Continue reading

‘Sonic’ speeds to $57M debut; ‘Parasite’ sees big Oscar bump

NEW YORK — The redesigned “Sonic the Hedgehog” showed plenty of teeth… Continue reading

Justin Timberlake on ‘trauma’ of being pelted with bottles at SARS concert

TORONTO — Justin Timberlake is still haunted by being pelted with what… Continue reading

Most Read