Played by: August Schellenberg
King Lear is an Algonquin chief of the Kitchisipirini (People of the Great River). Influenced by the European newcomers to his territory, Lear applies the concept of land ownership to his own people and equates it to the love derived from his three daughters. He is very much aware of treaty negotiations occurring between other nations (with the Europeans) and is contemplating the impact it would have within the context of his own people. Would an eventual treaty with Britain or France be the inevitable solution to protecting traditional territory in the best interest of the seven generations yet to come? As soon as he divides his “kingdom” amongst his daughters, he realizes the error of his judgement. The concept of ownership rapidly contributes to the decline of Algonquin social harmony, promoting humankind’s less desirable traits of greed and power. Lear’s turmoil is representative of the general upheaval of the traditional lifestyle and governing structures of the day. Either by choice, imposition, or victimization by sheer circumstance, the foreign force was increasingly affecting the lives of the First Nation Peoples of Turtle Island (North America).
Played by: Jani Lauzon
Cordelia is the youngest of Lear’s three daughters, and his favourite. Cordelia represents the First Nation traditionalist. She does not fall prey to equating the value (and power) of land to that of the love she has for her father, as a result, Cordelia is banished from her band. Recognized for her true qualities, she accepts a marital alignment with France. Cordelia is cognizant of the looming changes of her people, and cannot blame her father for what he has done. She recognizes he has been placed in a difficult position, that of a new social order. Cordelia ultimately becomes a symbol of the union between France and the First Peoples of Turtle Island, the Métis.
Played by: Monique Mojica
Goneril recommends the eye gauging of Gloucester, symbolic of not wanting anyone - including herself - to “see” the Truth, or to speak of it. Otherwise one would have to admit this is the end of a proud, historic people and the beginning of turbulent times. She is attracted to the power hungry traitor, Edmund, as her own husband becomes increasingly aware of the dysfunction that arises out of self-serving greed.
Played by: Tantoo Cardinal
Regan exemplifies the phenomenon of the oppressed becoming the oppressor. Regan is angry at her father for toying with new concepts, so manipulates his proposal and then quickly rejects him and all that he stands for. Her attraction to Edmund is for power, as a co-ruler, which reinforces her need to regain some semblance of control in an otherwise out-of-control situation.
Played by: Billy Merasty
Gloucester is quickly confused and easily manipulated by Edmund’s treachery, convinced to distrust, hence destroy, his full-blooded son. Gloucester’s wavering loyalties represent the conflict and confusion between the Old Way and the New; he finds himself gravitating towards the now “desirable” and increasingly powerful, part-white son. Although Gloucester remains faithful to the “dethroned” chief, he is “blinded” by the new social order and his son’s betrayal. Gloucester does not see the impact that land ownership inflicts until the chaos divides communities, families, and individuals, cruelly taking his idealistic vision away. Only then is he faced with clarity and the harsh reality of his impulsive half-breed son. Gloucester fulfills the role of the faithful warrior, as hereditary traditions prescribe, and stands ready to defend his people and their principles in the end.
Played by: Gordon Patrick White
Edgar is the full-blooded “legitimate” son of Gloucester and half-brother of Edmund. He readily flees from the threat of disharmony and discord. He goes into hiding - like many tribes who chose to remove themselves from the encroaching culture, desiring to protect their practices and way of life, content to remain apart from the unsettling influences of the unknown. Edgar represents both the negative then the positive stereotype of the “Indian”: the homeless undesirable and the noble savage. He finally becomes the heroic heir to a damaged “kingdom”. However broken his people may be by violence, deception, and suicide, Edgar is given a chance to pick up the pieces and rekindle core values once again.
Played by: Kevin Loring
Edmund is the illegitimate son of Gloucester and the most complex of the characters. He is a half-breed who, as a result, is a person of no place, no “status”. Not belonging to either culture, he is lost and undefined. While his birth of a British (yet absent) mother further strengthens his allegiance to his white lineage, it nonetheless deepens his isolation as he is not fully accepted in either of the clashing cultures. Both greed and fear overcome him as he yearns to attain some level of command of his uncertain identity. His ruthless behaviour is indicative of his own low self-perceived control.
Played by: Craig Lauzon
Kent is faithful and outspoken and goes to the extreme of disguising himself to continue to serve Lear, similar to Edgar’s reason for disguise. He honors the natural authority of his Elder and is deeply concerned about Lear’s unsettled conscious. His true identity resurfaces towards the end and he is one whose unwavering faith in the wisdom of the elders is vindicated.
Played by: Jani Lauzon
The Fool is the sacred clown of this community, breaking taboo and challenging Lear to examine his situation from different perspectives in order to teach a lesson or two. First Nations’ clowns -or contraries - serve as the “instructors of the wise man”, bringing forth Truths, while revealing humankind’s weaknesses. Lear’s fool disappears mid way throughout the plot, representative of the disappearing lifestyle and traditions due to contact with a self perceived “superior” people. Has this sacred clown gone into hiding or has s/he truly disappeared?
Played by: Lorne Cardinal
Albany is married to Lear’s daughter, Goneril, and initially part of his wife’s quest for power by claiming title to her father’s territory. As chaos ensues, he witnesses the worst in human behaviour, hence becomes increasingly sympathetic to those who represent traditional values and the plight of his elder, Lear. Albany ultimately becomes an admirable champion for justice by usurping control and leaving Edgar, the traditionalist, to restore order and repair the damage done.
Played by: Keith Barker
Cornwall is married to Lear’s daughter, Regan. He has no qualms about justifying his actions to pursue his own interests. He is no longer part of the collective, and embraces individualism as a means of survival. All the violence, rage, cruelty, and anger are executed by Cornwall.
Played by: Ryan Cunningham
Oswald is also a half-breed who works in isolation and holds no real allegiances. He serves the new authorities to acquire some level of significance otherwise denied his kind. He obeys any order as a means of personal survival by siding with whoever is perceived as in control within an ever changing society.
Played by: Jeremy Proulx
France is also a half-breed but, unlike Edgar, he was born of loving parents: an indigenous woman and a French man of position. Although raised in Algonquin territory he had the opportunity of traveling to his father’s homeland. France represents the best of both cultures. He knows the value of truth and honour which attracts him to Cordelia. He also enjoys the privileges of the western world, and finds place in both cultures.
Played by: Meegwun Fairbrother
Burgundy is a proud man of tradition, deeply committed to his culture and the land that defines him and his ancestors. To marry a banished woman would signify detachment from all that he identifies with as an Algonquin man - his family, community, and traditional territory.