‘The Literature of the Absurd’: Nothing to be executed

“The Literature of the Absurd” is a mirrored image on distinguished authors within the Absurdist custom — Beckett, Camus and past — and the methods wherein their writings can intertwine with life in generally shocking methods.

“What can we do now?”

“Wait.”

“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 battle with the unpredictable traces and jarring cadence of Samuel Beckett’s “Ready for Godot.” I had chosen this scene to guage their means 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wasn’t letting them on, although — all I had advised my auditioners was that they have been enjoying the a part of two outdated males with no different obvious pastime than ready by the roadside for a person named “Godot” to point out up. Once 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 chance 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 not less than the previous 12 months. 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 your entire play, I made a decision that the primary twenty minutes, an excerpt consisting primarily of an prolonged, rambling dialog between the 2 major characters, Vladimir and Estragon, can be sufficient. Fittingly, the final line of this excerpt was the identical as the primary, each instances uttered by Estragon: “Nothing to be executed.”

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 concerning 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 apprehensive that entering into blind is likely to be a waste of time if the actors struggled to grasp the that means of their traces or have been annoyed by the play’s lack of clear route. 

I had a imaginative and prescient for the play. I wanted to verify audiences stayed engaged for 20 minutes of dialogue, and within the full absence of any plot or clear message. I needed them puzzled; questioning, like I had after 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 brief, 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 of the rehearsal successful.

For the following 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 amount, tone, and temper after I felt the actors’ decisions didn’t match with my expectations for the scene. 

I wasn’t at all times totally certain what I would really like, however I might definitely inform what didn’t sit proper with me after 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. Nevertheless it struck me that they have been just a bit too humorous in some locations, not fairly in a position to forestall 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 determine the place this steadiness would possibly lie for my very own manufacturing, and to determine how I might exactly management the tone of the play by way of 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 probably 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 will 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 look at about 5 minutes of your entire 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 likely to be saying them.

This was one thing I hadn’t even thought of. As an actor, I at all times strived to examine my character as totally as potential, together with their motivations in any given state of affairs, 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 chance to actually act — maybe I had been denying them the essential privilege of deciphering their characters as they themselves noticed match.

Throughout our subsequent run-through, I made a decision to cease and have Kate analyze one necessary line, spoken in response to Vladmir’s refusal to hear to a different of Estragon’s nightmares and Estragon’s subsequent suggestion that they half methods: “Wouldn’t it, Didi, be actually too dangerous? Whenever you consider the fantastic thing about the way in which. And the goodness of the wayfarers.” In my opinion, 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 way in which, 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 of earlier than, and it gave Estragon’s character a extra hopeful bent — much less self-centered and dour, even perhaps wanting ahead towards the adventures forward as a substitute of simply grumbling concerning the circumstances. For a play wherein I wanted to create a way of movement with none true plot to go off, I preferred the change.

Over the following few weeks, each time potential, I requested Maia and Kate what they considered sure traces or moments, and listened to and regarded their views, no matter how totally 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 of, I discovered that every scene felt extra animated, energetic, and constant. 

Maybe what this manufacturing of “Ready for Godotwanted 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 executed.


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