By Tohry Petty, Master of Pomp, Director of Creative Engagement
One of the things I love about Sweet Tea Shakespeare is how we use music to help tell our story. It’s not just background music or space filler—it’s a part of the show, a thread that helps weave the story together.
To me, music has always been the perfect motivator and storyteller. I often create a playlist for my character and for Sweet Tea Shakespeare + Honest Pint’s production of King Lear, this time is no different. Throughout the entire process, I use the songs as inspiration, motivation, and background music while I study lines and prepare to go onstage.
Welcome to my playlist; let me show you around.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Lorde: This song is so dark and ominous—absolutely perfect for the family strife and dysfunction in King Lear.
“Sweet Revenge,” The Spooks: In Act 1 after seeing flashes of her anger, Albany says to his wife, “How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell”; he’s unsure of what he’s gotten himself into and the lengths to which Goneril will go to get what she wants:
“Thought you knew me, but all you really know is what I choose to show / … / Venomous revenge, so sweet”
And, for me, the vengeance that Goneril executes over her enemies and rivals from then on is perfectly reflected in this verse by The Spooks.
“He Can Only Hold Her,” Amy Winehouse: “Now, how can he have her heart / When it got stole? / So he tries to pacify her / ‘Cause what’s inside her never dies”
And poor, sweet Albany tries to keep his wife happy, but I don’t think Goneril is a woman that can truly be pacified.
“Twice,” Little Dragon: “Was it two wills / One mirror holding us dearer now”
The piano at the root of “Twice” that pushes the song is everything. The underlying pain in this song seems to echo the vacuum caused by the harsh words King Lear hurls at his eldest daughter and the venom she returns—like father, like daughter.
“Elephant,” Larkin Poe: “Can a heart be truly broken without an act of violence?”
“Break the Same,” Mute Math: “And we all freaked out / What a shame / When only tears know how to remind us we all break the same”
And let’s not forget the general elephant in the kingdom fueled by the choices of hate, anger and violence over love.
“Let No Grief,” The Wild Reeds: “Maybe one day you’ll wipe the dust off my face and see me again / … / Now I have to sing something louder than I have before / so I escape this overwhelming pain and never hurt no more / … / Please speak sweet to me / oh somber hearted let no grief destroy the time we have to be close quiet and free”
This may be one of my favorites in this playlist. The harmony of the three women and the wailing at the bridge? It’s just phenomenal. There is such pain running through this family—pain caused by the members themselves through vanity and vengeance. To heal her spirit, the question must be asked: is Goneril just looking for kind words from her father—finally—or from a lover?
“Dangerous Woman,” Ariana Grande: “Somethin’ ’bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman”
Either way, she is one woman who has and will take her future into her own hands and may find herself playing Rihanna’s “Needed Me” on repeat (be advised, explicit lyrics ahead in this one).
Now, of course, a lady doesn’t reveal all of her secrets. While the list on Spotify is not my complete playlist, these are some great pieces that help tell Goneril’s story to me and for me. Story aside, this is a list of amazing artists and songs. Give them a listen and let me know what you think after a show.