By Joe Engleman
For the first time in nearly twenty years, Grinnell College will be asked to sit alongside Estragon and Vladimir and wait for Godot. 2013 will mark the sixtieth year that people first stood in Paris and waited for Godot.
You might be asking—why do people still wait for Godot? The answer lies in playwright Samuel Beckett.
“Beckett revolutionized theater immediately,” said Director Ellen Mease, Theatre. “Everyone recognized that theater would never be the same after Waiting For Godot.”
One of the largest differences from Grinnell’s last performance of Godot in 1984, also directed by Mease, is that the revised edition of the play was released during the interim.
“It was not until 1992 that the revised text became available,” Mease said. “I’ve been working with it in the senior seminar on Beckett, but I have not had a chance to do a full scale production of Godot since the revised script came out.”
The play wanders into many different genres, providing aspects of interest for everyone. Estragon, played by Jack Menner ’13, and Vladimir, played by Ian Saderholm ’15, dance back and forth between slapstick moments of mirroring scenes, switching hats and channeling westerns in a stand-off (Mease mentioned that Beckett was fascinated by American westerns), while the rest and the majority of the play is deathly dramatic. Biblical allusions abound throughout the play, and one cannot leave the Roberts without reflecting on the world presented on the stage and the one you head back into.
This effect is amplified by the set design by Justin Thomas, Theatre, which according to Mease was inspired by English artist J.M.W. Turner. The stage eerily foreshadows the appearance of snowless winter in rural Iowa and on campus.
The opening line of the play, delivered by Menner, sets the tone for the bleakness of Godot’s world.
“Nothing to be done,” he says. There are moments in the play where it seems that the only escape for Estragon and Vladimir is death by hanging. They possess a tree as bare as any on campus, but lack the rope.
Menner and Saderholm are both veterans to Grinnell theatre—Menner appeared in Broken Mirrors last spring and Saderholm got to spend Sunday In The Park With George last fall.
Alex Bazis ’14 and Ben Charette ’16, who play Pozzo and Lucky respectively, are both appearing in their first main stage production.
Charette, whose character Lucky plays Bazis’ former tutor and porter, was actively involved with theater in high school. He has been quite pleased with the jump in intensity that came with Godot.
“This is my first real production,” Charette said. “I think people take it a little more seriously here. Part of it is the people in the show. We have a very small cast here… being at a place where there are people that are very much motivated forces me to step it up. I like that. It makes me feel like I’m putting forward my best foot.”
Bazis, whose character Pozzo makes a rather boisterous entrance during Act I, acts at times as a moral antagonist. Bazis’ first appearance was a small role in Rebecca Young Ward’s MAP, Moving On, last spring. Moving up to the role of Pozzo posed a number of fresh challenges for Bazis.
“It was hard work… to master the kind of speaking, which is very different from the way I speak,” Bazis said. “Pozzo is a very loud, arrogant character, and I tend not to think of myself as that. I definitely had to learn how to project and be authoritative.”
Besides the countless hours that the cast has already spent memorizing, blocking, and in rehearsals, Bazis made a sacrifice that no other cast member had to—his hair—but he has no regrets.
“It’s worth shaving twice…I actually have to do it again on Friday just to touch it up,” he said.
Two visual elements to enjoy and keep your eyes peeled for are the moon and a handful of leaves that dot the tree in Act II. No matter how hard you look, you won’t be able to see Godot, which has caused a stir among members of the cast.
“I’m jealous of the guy who got cast as Godot,” Bazis said. “He doesn’t have to do anything.”