The Many Worlds of Godot

By Abbey Frederick ‘20

Staff Writer

This April, HWS Theatre will be undertaking the production of one of the twentieth century’s most famous and fascinating plays.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett has been interpreted and re-interpreted many times since it was first performed in 1953. The script invites interdisciplinary discussion and diverse interpretation. Now, director Heather May, the show’s cast and crew members, and the HWS community have a chance to reimagine the play again.

Director Heather May, an Associate Professor of Theatre at HWS, has wanted to direct Waiting for Godot for years. She sees the play as a “profound tragicomic reflection about what happens when we wait for others to save us.” May will be presenting the play as a commentary on the consequences of inaction in the face of the impending threats of climate change. According to stage manager Casey Cady ’18, the scenic design, costumes, and props provide visual cues that put this contemporary spin on the original script.

Cady, an Environmental Studies major, will be completing an Independent Study linked to the production. She intends to investigate the historical context of the play and then draw links to a contemporary environmental context with a focus on waste. The play itself will utilize objects that would have otherwise been thrown away as props and set pieces.  The famous tree of Beckett’s barren scenic landscape will have plastic bags caught in its branches and pieces of trash lit

Cady will also be tabling in Scandling prior to the weekend of the performance, collecting responses to questions about waste and environmental degradation. These responses will be posted outside the theatre for audience members to read and reflect upon as they view the play.

On the other hand, Professor of Physics Donald Spector will be prompting audience members to view the production in a different light. Spector has long been fascinated by Beckett’s work and will be giving a talk before the show as part of the Frame/Works program. He views Waiting for Godot as a masterful example of the way art can give voice to the philosophical implications of abstract scientific concepts. His talk will focus on how Waiting for Godot explores the theoretical existence of multiple versions of the universe. Spector argues that the characters experience not two consecutive days, but rather two versions of a single day in the play’s two acts.

Spector’s Frame/Works talk will also delve into the consequences that result when one subscribes to convictions that are “unsupported by the empirical reality of the world.” According to Spector, existential anxiety in the play results from a refusal to accept the possibility of multiplicity. Though Professor May’s interpretation of Beckett’s script is much different, her environmentally-orientated intentions for the production also explore the damage done when people fail to take action in the face of evidence.

Waiting for Godot exemplifies how interdisciplinarity between sciences and the arts can lead to meaningful and stimulating discussions. Spector is eager to hear the perspectives of people approaching the play from various disciplines in the pre- and post-show talks. Physicists, philosophers, environmentalists, and dramaturges will all bring unique thoughts to the discussion.

Despite the fact that Waiting for Godot invites such diverse interpretation, Professor May says that Beckett’s writing itself is “exquisitely precise.” The play is filled with highly specific stage directions integral to the narrative. According to Patrick Wolber ‘18, who plays the role of Vladimir, the script also involves dozens of “pauses” and “silences.” Wolber notes that it has been both challenging and enriching to explore the dramatization of these pauses and to consider “what exactly the characters could be thinking during them.”

Christopher Williams ‘19, who plays Estragon, also mentioned the enjoyable challenge of working on the body scripting of his character, since “there are many points throughout the play where he does nothing but simply wait.”

The cast of the show is comprised of Wolber and Williams, as well as Eros Cabrera ’19, Luis Figueroa ‘18, and Thomas Perry ‘19.  Wolber says there is immense camaraderie among the entire cast, which has made rehearsal enjoyable even in challenging moments.

In addition, Casey Cady is the stage manager, Jack Corey ‘20, Kathleen Fowkes ‘18, and Xiaonan Geng ‘19 act as assistant stage managers, and Gia Marciniak ‘21 is the costume assistant.

Waiting for Godot will run Thursday, April 12 and Friday, April 13 at 7:30pm, and Saturday, April 14 at 2pm and 7:30pm. The performance will take place in the McDonald Theatre in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.

Professor Spector’s Frame/Works talk will be held on Friday, April 13 at 4:30pm in Williams 201. There will also be a post-performance dialogue with members of the production team after Friday’s show to continue the discussion.

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