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History of the Mother Lear project

In 2017 Ava Roy, the founding Artistic Director of We Players, and actress Courtney Walsh created a two-woman theatrical piece about an aging mother and her caretaker daughter, plumbing the depths of Shakespeare’s language to explore the themes of family, aging, pride, control, and mortality. Following its premiere in 2017, Mother Lear earned Outstanding Performance awards for both Walsh and Roy from Theater Bay Area.

In Mother Lear, a formerly brilliant Shakespeare scholar descending into dementia communicates only through the remembered text of King Lear. “Lear” (Walsh) is determined to end her life on her own terms as her grip on reality succumbs to her imagined identity as King Lear. Discovering her mother surrounded by treasured possessions and an ominous bottle of pills, “Cordelia” (Roy) must try to reach her mother through the only language she recognizes. Donning a variety of personas from Shakespeare’s play, from the loyal friend Kent to the manipulative daughter Goneril to the irreverent Fool, Cordelia engages her mother in the difficult conversations they had never managed to negotiate prior to her illness. Through this artificial construct, they achieve authentic communication. Audiences re-discover the magic of the Bard’s gift for expression, as two relatable modern characters find that Shakespeare’s words exceed their own in exploring difficult subjects like regret and death. At the same time, affection and intimacy blossom with Shakespeare’s humor and lyricism.


Walsh and Roy spent months developing the original theatrical piece through research and improvisation, including interviews with care providers and over 100 hours that Walsh spent observing and interacting with people with dementia. Now Mother Lear has been translated into a film, in the hopes of sharing the experience with a wider audience, expanding the conversation around dementia care and sharing the power of art to help us navigate the challenges of being human. For more information about the Mother Lear film, please contact producer Courtney Walsh at

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