Archive | February, 2016

Waiting for “Waiting for Godot”

13 Feb

“I’ve never heard of that book”, said the puzzled book store employee when we asked whether the store had any copies of Waiting for Godot. Things weren’t looking good for Godot.

derby

Several years ago we saw the film Vanya on 42nd Street in which a group of well-known actors rehearsed Chekov’s Uncle Vanya at a run-down theater in New York without ever intending to stage a full-blown production of the play. That gave us an idea. What if we rehearsed Waiting for Godot with our friends? Since we see our friends infrequently, the idea languished on the back burner for the better part of a year. Then in December, we got together with our friends Louie, Sam, and Fred for beer and pizza. At the end of the evening we pitched our idea, which earned us some quizzical looks from our buds. We thought that was the end of it, until Louie contacted the gang via e-mail and suggested that we all give the idea a try. Sam and Fred only vaguely remembered the conversation, but said they were up for it. We met at Louie’s on a chilly night in January.

We had only one copy of the text, which we gave to Sam.  We, Louie, and Fred hooked up laptops and read from a copy of the play we found online.  We were the only one in the quartet who had seen the play (albeit on DVD.) The casting was done on the spur of the moment. Sam said that he’d be Vladimir, one of the two tramps who wait for Godot, so the part was his. Louie volunteered for the part of Estragon, the other tramp.  That left Pozzo and Lucky (and the little boy who comes in at the end of both acts.)  We knew that Fred would make the perfect Pozzo, so we chose Lucky. As for the little boy, we’d just wing it.

We tore into the material.  About 15 minutes into the reading, Sam looked pointedly at us and said “Harry, what’s this play about?” (Sam is a lawyer by trade, and used to dealing in things that can be known.) We told him quite honestly that we didn’t know. We once heard of a movie goer who, having seen Ken Russell’s Lisztomania gushed , “I didn’t understand it, but I loved every minute of it!” 1 That’s how we feel about Waiting for Godot – we enjoy the play, but we find ourselves unable (and unwilling) to pin it down.

The reading continued until just after 9pm, when the looming work day on the morrow forced an early stopping point. We hadn’t even reached the end of Act I. Everyone agreed that the play was intriguing and we made vague plans to meet again to continue the reading.  That gave us time to score three more dog-eared copies of the text. Several weeks passed without a firm plan to meet again.  Sam took the initiative, e-mailing “So when are we going to meet again?  I want to know what happens to Vladimir.” Beckett had apparently awakened some dormant creative impulses in our band of grumpy old men.  We’re shooting for February 19th.

Waiting for Godot has been described as “a play in which nothing happens, twice” (and this was written by Vivian Mercier, a fan of the play.)  We hope Mercier is wrong – we’re hoping that this nothing happens more than twice.

  1. Not having seen Lisztomania, we can’t say whether this enthusiastic view was warranted. However, the director is Ken Russell, so we kind of doubt it.
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