Trying to top the critical and financial success of its last production, the festival plans to stage King Lear, as well as a contemporary new musical. But creative director Geoffrey Tennant finds himself seized by fits of uncontrollable weeping--among other, more intimate maladies.
Charles Kingman--the theatrical lion whom Geoffrey has recruited to play Lear--brings some secret demons of his own to the production and immediately alienates cast and crew alike. Meanwhile, the festival's general manager, Richard Smith-Jones, flexes his creative muscles.
Charles's erratic behavior becomes more and more disruptive, prompting Geoffrey to consider replacing him. As tensions grow within the cast of Lear, personal and professional jealousies widen the rift between the Shakespearean actors and the eager young players in the musical.
The final rehearsal of King Lear turns into a full-on train wreck, as Charles fumbles dozens of lines. With East Hastings a smashing success, Richard--now known as "Big Dick" among his youthful admirers--proposes the heretofore unthinkable: moving the Shakespearean tragedy into the workshop stage and the musical into the main venue.
Anna, the festival's efficient assistant manager, steps in to help Geoffrey with Charles. But King Lear loses its Regan as actress Ellen Fanshaw flees the festival for the promise of a big payday on TV.