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'Lear' star Kevin Connell suffers stroke

Lead's exit means troupe will perform play highlights only


by: COURTESY PHOTO: BAG&BAGGAGE PRODUCTIONS - Father Kevin Connell, cast as King Lear in Hillsboro-based Bag&Baggage Production's 'Lear,' suffered a stroke early Monday and will not be able to finish the plays run this weekend.Kevin Connell, an English teacher at Jesuit High School and the star of Bag&Baggage Productions’ “Lear,” based on William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” suffered a stroke Monday and will be unable to perform the title role for the final four shows of the production run in Hillsboro.

According to Artistic Director Scott Palmer, colleagues found Connell — a popular Portland-area theater performer — unconscious in his residence March 17 after he failed to arrive for his morning class at Jesuit. He was transported to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland for treatment.

“I’ve been in constant contact with Kevin’s colleagues at Jesuit, and his physical condition has improved overnight,” said Palmer. Connell was able to lift his extremities off the bed and attempted to recite lines from “Lear,” he added.

Still, Palmer cautioned, “it’s unclear how long (Connell) had been unconscious, or when the stroke occurred, so there’s no way to know what the long-term implications are. Kevin will have a very, very long road to recovery.” Connell remained in the hospital’s intensive care unit Tuesday.

In the absence of its star, Bag&Baggage will perform highlights from “Lear” during each of the final four scheduled performances this weekend at the Venetian Theatre, followed by an open-forum discussion with the actors and crew about the adaptation and Father Connell’s involvement in the show.

“We have all heard the old adage that the show must go on,” said Palmer, “and we know Kevin would want us to do just that — but he truly was the heart and soul of this play.

“To honor his passion and commitment to this show, and to give our audiences a taste of the production, we will instead perform highlights from the script and discuss our process, the adaptation and all of the elements that went in to making this show such a remarkable success for the company ... including Kevin’s unique portrayal of King Lear.”

The final four performances of “Lear” will feature a selection of scenes, in full costume, that focus on sections of the text that differ the most from Shakespeare’s original — as well as monologues from original source materials, adapted scenes for Lear’s three daughters and performances of the original score composed by Tylor Neist of Bridgetown Orchestra.

At the request of Father Connell and his colleagues at Jesuit, patrons and fans of Bag&Baggage are encouraged to make a donation in Connell’s honor to Jesuits Northwest (the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus) at nwjesuits.org to help defray costs associated with health insurance and cost-of-living expenses for Jesuits serving in the Pacific Northwest. Donations to Bag&Baggage Productions at bagnbaggage.org to support innovative explorations of classic theater are also welcome.

Audience members who have questions regarding tickets already purchased for the weekend, or patrons wishing to attend the final four shows to support Bag&Baggage and learn more about Father Connell’s work, can contact the Bag&Baggage box office at 503-345-9590 or visit bagnbaggage.org.

“Bag&Baggage also encourages all of our patrons, fans and supporters to learn the warning signs of a stroke by visiting the American Stroke Association online at strokeassociation.org,” said Palmer.




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