Thursday, February 12, 2009

Imagine That?

Looks like Sam Beckett gets the last word with the American Repertory Theater.

Today's Globe article about the current production of Endgame, with quotes from Robert Brustein on the famous Joanne Akalitis production, tells us that part of the deal for this production is that they will have to follow the script to the letter.

This time around, there will be no radical changes. In fact, the deal signed by the ART and Beckett's estate (he died in 1989) was that they follow the script to the letter: Every dramatic pause, every step and deep breath is scripted.


It's not easy to pull off, says Stern (Director,) who at first thought the directions would be limiting. But instead he says he finds it deeply challenging and exhilarating.

"It's very labor intensive and really exhausting," he says. "The task is really hyper-focused, but it's also very interesting getting the mechanics down. Normally it would be frustrating, but there is a great faith he's such a great writer that it will pay off to strictly adhere to his description."

This is a remarkable bit of pre-show marketing. Following the vision of the playwright is the risk?

It is a wonderful image here: Taking a deep breath, the ART says, "OK, we're going to try this thing. We've heard he's a great writer, I mean some people claim he's a genius, but let's hope that crazy old man knew what he was talking about. And don't say we didn't tell you so if doesn't work out."


Thomas Garvey said...

I know, it's just hilariously, pathetically stupid. Some people wrote in when I called the A.R.T. "morons" in my last review, but really at this point, what can you say? I mean the whole IDEA of Beckett is that it's "limiting"! What I found most irritating about that article, however, was the implication that Beckett objected to the ditzy Akalaitis "Endgame" for racist reasons. Ugh. Those people really have no shame.

Ian Thal said...

Beckett, of course, was notorious for not wanting his work reinterpreted. That was, of course, his right. On one hand, maybe this "limitation" is really the discipline that a company needs, on the other hand, Beckett's insistance on always having things his way, surely sabotaged him at times, as in with his one foray into film: when he enlisted Buster Keaton, one of the cinema's great innovators, as his star, he absolutely refused to listen to any of Keaton's suggestions.

Thomas is right though about the defensiveness of ART back the days. I remember Woodruff's production of Richard II of several years ago, which was flawed on so many levels, but most obviously in the need to rest Richard's failings as a king upon flamboyantly unrestrained homosexuality. However often the scenes were played to feature homoeroticism, the overall weight was homophobic (i.e. it took a macho, heterosexual Henry to save England!) So what was the response to the critics? To call the critics homophobic!

I'm seeing Endgame anyway. I might like it.

marinda said...

I like the image of the director "literally coloring inside clearly drawn lines by Beckett." How come none of my copies of Endgame has ever included Beckett's coloring pages?

Ian Thal said...


I don't know about Endgame but I have an edition of Krapp's Last Tape that includes facsimiles of Beckett's directorial notebooks. THere are no sketches, but Beckett made all his directorial notes on graph paper, which allows one to color in all sorts of quilt like patterns!

Ian Thal said...

I just saw Endgame and I have to say that it actually looked and felt like a Beckett play. It was even funny. The only ART touch was a special stage effect right at the end, but it seemed to function within context.