Actor Gero, Playwright D’Andrea Strut Their Stuff
Posted: July 6, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: July 6, 2009 at 10:21 am
As theater professors at Mason, Edward Gero and Paul D’Andrea teach their students the value of the arts and provide them with practical training and experience to prepare them for a life in show business.
As professional artists, together Gero and D’Andrea have amassed careers spanning more than 30 years. With new plays opening within a few weeks of one another this summer, actor Gero and playwright D’Andrea show no signs of slowing down.
Throughout his career, which began in 1976 at the Classic Stage Company in New York, Gero, associate professor of theater, has played a variety of characters. Performing for the fourth time in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” Gero takes on the role of the Duke of Gloucester.
This modern version of “King Lear,” which opened at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., last month and runs through Sunday, July 26, is set in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It begins with King Lear’s division of his kingdom amongst his three daughters and explores the most basic questions of human existence.
Gero, who has been a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Company since 1983, compares Shakespeare’s “King Lear” to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and considers it the playwright’s greatest work.
“‘King Lear’ draws upon some great parallels to some of the issues we face in today’s world, and it brings together the elements of narcissism, hubris, leadership and what becomes of individuals who can’t see beyond their own wants and needs,” says Gero.
“It is a great cautionary tale about the excesses of ego and presents a bleak view of the world at the edge of the apocalypse.”
Gloucester represents the subplot of the play. He is deceived by his illegitimate son who feels he deserves his father’s inheritance above his true son. When Lear is cast out by his daughters, Gloucester, a loyal friend to Lear, must decide whether to stay true to his friend or obey the princesses. In the process, Lear goes mad and Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out in what is often considered the most violent act in all of Shakespeare.
When Gloucester and Lear finally meet, the scene, according to Gero, is a touching one between a blind man and a mad man, and reveals great insight into each of their lives.
With more than 125 performances under his belt, Gero has spent most of his career with the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Recently, however, he has been performing in other plays throughout Washington, D.C., and cities across the country.
He has been at Mason since 1991 and teaches acting and script analysis courses. In addition, he has directed several productions for the GMU Players, a faculty-directed student organization and producing unit of the Department of Theater.
Einstein and Social Responsibility
While Gero spends his time performing on the stage, D’Andrea, Robinson Professor of Theater and English, can be found behind the scenes.
D’Andrea’s play titled “The Einstein Project” recently opened for the first time on the main stage at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., one of the oldest professional regional theaters in the United States. The play was performed at the festival on a smaller stage in 2000.
The play focuses on the life of Albert Einstein and the social responsibility of science. The play takes a close look at Einstein as a human being and the ways in which he struggled to deal with a threat as big as his own work.
“Einstein was a genius in much the same way Shakespeare is regarded as a genius, and I hope that after seeing the play the audience comes away with the magnitude of his achievements and the price he had to pay to achieve science at the level he did,” says D’Andrea.
“They see how this man of genius had to come down off his Olympian mountain of contemplation and join the political world with the rest of us.”
In “The Einstein Project,” Einstein is faced with a tremendous adversary as Adolf Hitler emerges and threatens world stability. As someone who enjoyed his time alone to work, Einstein was forced to react to this threat by contradicting his own pacifist views and writing a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt encouraging him to develop atomic weapons for use against Germany.
To prepare to write the play, D’Andrea spent much time not only reading numerous biographies about Einstein, but also reading letters written by Einstein in German to get a better sense of what he was like as a man. This research helps the audience understand the agony and insights he faced in his life and fills them with a feeling of encouragement, D’Andrea says.
D’Andrea’s plays have been produced across the country in many major regional theaters and range in subject matter and style. In addition to “The Einstein Project,” some of his other plays include “The Trouble with Europe” and “A Full Length Portrait of America.”
He has been at Mason since 1986 and teaches courses in Renaissance art, philosophy and literature. In addition, he founded Theater of the First Amendment, Mason’s professional theater company in residence, which has performed his plays “Two-Bit Taj Mahal” and “Nathan the Wise.”
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