“The Literature of the Absurd” is a mirrored image on distinguished authors within the Absurdist custom — Beckett, Camus and past — and the methods during which their writings can intertwine with life in typically shocking methods.
“What will we do now?”
“Sure, however whereas ready.”
“What about hanging ourselves?”
“Hmm. It’d give us an erection.”
Seated comfortably behind a plastic desk, I watched my two classmates wrestle with the unpredictable traces and jarring cadence of Samuel Beckett’s Ready for Godot. I had chosen this scene to judge their skill to play off one another, to create one thing energetic and interesting regardless of the obvious nonsense of the dialogue. I wasn’t letting them on, although — all I had advised my auditioners was that they have been enjoying the a part of two outdated males with no different obvious pastime than ready by the roadside for a person named “Godot” to indicate up. After they completed studying, I allow them to go, befuddled, to audition for an additional director’s present.
Each spring, my highschool’s theater division gave us seniors a possibility to direct a one-act play of our selection. My selection was not a conventional one — I had desperately needed to direct Ready for Godot, the play I had been obsessing over for at the very least the previous yr. I felt that I had a transparent imaginative and prescient for a piece that many individuals nonetheless failed to grasp, and this might maybe be my one probability to share that imaginative and prescient with others. Whereas I couldn’t placed on the complete play, I made a decision that the primary twenty minutes, an excerpt consisting primarily of an prolonged, rambling dialog between the 2 foremost characters, Vladimir and Estragon, could be sufficient. Fittingly, the final line of this excerpt was the identical as the primary, each instances uttered by Estragon: “Nothing to be performed.”
Earlier than the primary rehearsal with my two chosen actors, Maia (Vladimir) and Kate (Estragon), I deliberated at size over how a lot to inform them in regards to the play’s premise, characters and that means. On the one hand, I used to be fairly curious to see the place they might take the play’s uncommon dialogue with out instruction, and the way they could select to play their characters impartial of my steering. On the opposite, I nervous that stepping into blind is perhaps a waste of time if the actors struggled to grasp the that means of their traces or have been pissed off by the play’s lack of clear course.
I had a imaginative and prescient for the play. I wanted to verify audiences stayed engaged for twenty minutes of dialogue, and within the full absence of any plot or clear message. I needed them puzzled; questioning, like I had once I first learn the play, what the purpose of all of it was. I needed them to assume. I couldn’t have them falling asleep to actors reciting quick, stilted traces devoid of any humor or depth. Earlier than having Maia or Kate learn even a single line, I ended up describing the play at size, and my actual plans for it, for almost half an hour: half of our first rehearsal.
On the finish of our first read-through, I requested the actors for his or her first impressions. Their response: it was humorous. I thought-about the rehearsal successful.
For the subsequent seven weeks, we met 3 times every week to rehearse. Quickly the play was taking form: I defined the meanings of obscure traces, prescribed particular actions across the stage to accompany sure bits of dialogue and gave every character distinctive traits, like a nervous hat-wringing tic for Vladimir and a painful, shuffling stroll for Estragon. I handled every second with precision, shaping the quantity, tone, and temper once I felt the actors’ decisions didn’t match with my expectations for the scene.
I wasn’t at all times completely positive what I would really like, however I may definitely inform what didn’t sit proper with me once I noticed it. For one factor, I didn’t need the play to get too comical, regardless of Maia’s and Kate’s preliminary reactions. I remembered watching clips from a preferred manufacturing of the total play that starred Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart within the lead roles. Unsurprisingly, it was an excellent efficiency. But it surely struck me that they have been just a bit too humorous in some locations, not fairly capable of stop the comedy of every scene from overwhelming what I noticed because the deeper message of the play: of discovering, or creating, that means from mundanity. I struggled to establish the place this stability would possibly lie for my very own manufacturing, and to determine how I may exactly management the tone of the play via the notes I gave my very own actors on their actions and supply.
One afternoon a number of weeks into our rehearsals, we have been visited by the top of the theater division and director of our full-length reveals, Jeremy. By this level I felt the present was in good condition, for essentially the most half. Maia and Kate each remembered the actions I had given them, recited their traces with the cadences I had instructed them to and have been well-practiced at portraying the idiosyncrasies and peculiarities of their respective characters. However I nonetheless puzzled if one thing was lacking — some stage of naturalism and luxury from the actors that might sweep away the final vestiges of awkwardness and rework the play into the colourful, energetic vignette of comically bleak circumstances I knew it wanted to be.
Jeremy was solely there to observe about 5 minutes of the complete 20-minute play. Earlier than he left, although, he made one suggestion: that in some unspecified time in the future, I cease and ask the actors what they considered their components — what their traces meant to them, and why their characters is perhaps saying them.
This was one thing I hadn’t even thought-about. As an actor, I at all times strived to check my character as totally as attainable, together with their motivations in any given scenario, how they could react to different characters’ actions, and, particularly, why they have been saying every line. However by assuming that I wanted to clarify the themes and messages of Godot myself and punctiliously prescribe each motion and motion to the actors — each selection that may represent a possibility to actually act — maybe I had been denying them the essential privilege of decoding their characters as they themselves noticed match.
Throughout our subsequent run-through, I made a decision to cease and have Kate analyze one essential line, spoken in response to Vladmir’s refusal to pay attention to a different of Estragon’s nightmares and Estragon’s subsequent suggestion that they half methods: “Wouldn’t it, Didi, be actually too unhealthy? If you consider the great thing about the best way. And the goodness of the wayfarers.” For my part, this line referred to Vladimir and Estragon themselves, the wayfarers on their journey to a greater place with Godot.
However Kate had a unique interpretation. To her, the wayfarers represented those that Didi and Gogo would possibly meet alongside the best way, these whose lives they could briefly intersect with and be touched by all through the monotony of their existence. This was a view I had by no means thought-about earlier than, and it gave Estragon’s character a extra hopeful bent — much less self-centered and dour, maybe even wanting ahead towards the adventures forward as an alternative of simply grumbling in regards to the circumstances. For a play during which I wanted to create a way of movement with none true plot to go off, I favored the change.
Over the subsequent few weeks, at any time when attainable, I requested Maia and Kate what they considered sure traces or moments, and listened to and regarded their views, no matter how completely different they could have been from my very own. I nonetheless directed — I supplied notes on timing, actions throughout the stage I needed to accompany sure traces, moments I needed to be extra aggressive or extra hushed. However by letting the actors assume deeply about their very own characters and the motives or reactions these characters might need that I had not thought-about, I discovered that every scene felt extra animated, energetic, and constant.
Maybe what this manufacturing of Ready for Godot wanted was not my very own singular opinion of the way it ought to look, however the mixed effort of three individuals who understood the play every in their very own methods, and who every got here to their very own conclusions. When the time got here to place the play on earlier than an viewers, I used to be exceptionally happy with our joint creation — and nothing remained to be performed.