Southeastern Theatre brings 'Waiting for Godot' into 21st century
Contact: Christina Chapple
(1) (2) (3) (4)
(1) ART MEETS THEATER – Southeastern Louisiana University art major Evan Danby of Hammond creates a giant steel tree sculpture for the set of Southeastern Theatre’s March 21-25 production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Director of Theatre Steve Schepker, who designed the set, recruited Danby, a student last semester in his stagecraft class, to help design and to construct the tree, which dominates the set on the Vonnie Borden Theatre stage. Department of Visual Arts and Department Head Dennis Sipiorski collaborated by supplying the necessary welding equipment. Curtain for “Waiting for Godot” is 7:30 p.m.
(2) “GODOT” TRAMPS -- Teddy Boone of Covington, left, plays “Vladimir” and Ben Norman of Covington is “Estragon,” a pair of tramps who are “Waiting for Godot” in the Southeastern Louisiana University Theatre production of the Samuel Beckett classic, March 21-25 at Vonnie Borden Theatre.
(3) MASTER AND TRAMPS -- Whitney Allen of Hammond (top left), who plays the evil master “Pozzo,” rehearses a scene with Teddy Boone (top right) and Ben Norman (front), both of Covington, from the Southeastern Louisiana University Theatre’s March 21-25 production of “Waiting for Godot.”
(4) WAITING FOR GODOT -- Randy Malbrough Jr. of Gonzales (left) plays the young boy who bears the message to waiting tramps Teddy Boone (center) and Ben Norman (right) that M. Godot is not coming today in the Samuel Beckett classic “Waiting for Godot.” The Southeastern Louisiana University Theatre production will open March 21 at Vonnie Borden Theatre and run through March 25 at 7:30 p.m.
HAMMOND – Director James Winter’s goal was to bring Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy “Waiting for Godot” into the 21st century.
And although the late great playwright was known as a stickler for having his works performed his way, Winter thinks that Beckett would approve of the fresh approach he has taken in the Southeastern Louisiana University Theatre’s upcoming production of this difficult, hilarious, physically-taxing stage classic.
“Waiting for Godot” will run March 21-25 at Vonnie Borden Theatre. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. and tickets, available in the theater box office in D Vickers Hall, are $10 for adults; $5 for senior citizens, non-Southeastern students, and Southeastern faculty and staff; and free for Southeastern students with a valid I.D.
Beckett’s play is a hilarious and tragic look at two tramps, Vladimire (Teddy Boone of Covington) and Estragon (Ben Norman of Covington) and their exploration of faith, hope, friendship, and the human condition.
The simple plot symbolizes the tedium and meaninglessness of human life. As the tramps wait by a sickly tree for the arrival of “Monsieur Godot,” they quarrel, make up, contemplate suicide, try to sleep, eat a carrot and gnaw on some chicken bones. Two other characters appear in the middle of the play, cruel Pozzo (Whitney Allen of Hammond) and his slave (Paul Woods of Covington). Then a young boy (Randy Malbrough Jr. of Gonzales) arrives to say that M. Godot will not come today, but “surely tomorrow.”
To “bring this play into a new light,” Winter has enhanced its traditional physicality, incorporated music specially composed by Southeastern composer-in-residence Stephen Suber, and added audience interaction.
“If Beckett saw our production, he would see some things that he never imagined being done with it,” Winter said. “But I think all of it supports what he has written. I think we’ve just brought it to life for 2006.”
Winter, who joined the theater faculty in 2005, said to the best of his knowledge Southeastern Theatre has never tackled a Beckett play – and he can understand why.
“They are very difficult material for actors,” he said. And “Godot,” in particular “requires a high level of both mental and physical commitment,” he added.
Winter said he made sure his cast knew up front that “Godot” would tax their time and their muscles. “There is a lot of clown work, physical comedy, and stage combat,” he said. “I told them that I was going to ask a lot of them.”
He selected the actors last December, directed them to learn their lines over the holidays, and launched into physical training workshops when the spring semester got underway in January. Formal rehearsals began in mid-February.
Winter personally handled the training, since he has considerable background in stage combat choreography. He also got an unexpected hand from a cast member. “Paul Woods is an Army Ranger,” Winter said. “He was a tremendous help, because, obviously, Rangers need to know how to fall and roll safely and correctly. So he helped me to train the other actors.
“We had to teach them how to do stage falls, dives, rolls, how to throw each other,” Winter said. “The actors all trained really hard. They’re doing wonderfully, and it’s exciting for them.”
“I’d like to think all the action will be special treat for audience,” Winter said. He also hinted that the audience will get into the action themselves.
“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag because it might spoil a few of our surprises,” Winter laughed. “We’re not going to drag anyone up on stage or anything like that, but depending on where you sit, you’re likely to be a part of what’s happening. I think it’s going to be visually interesting for the audience!”
In addition to the production changes he’s incorporated, Winter is thrilled by how well Suber’s original score complements the production and he is also jazzed about the level of backstage student involvement.
He said Suber, an award-winning composer whose works include a number of pieces composed for Southeastern faculty and student ensembles, is as excited as he is about the collaboration.
“I think his music is fantastic,” Winter said. “It’s very in keeping with our production concept – it’s very bizarre! Dr. Suber has been coming to rehearsals just to see how we were doing.”
Winter said “Godot” doesn’t traditionally have music, expect for one short song. “I wanted to really hit the audience on as many levels as we could,” he said. “I thought that this is such an innovative and original piece, why not have original music for it? And since it’s an educational production, why not include another department and make this a collaborative effort? Dr. Suber immediately jumped on it. I have really enjoyed working with him and I would do it again.”
Winter is also thrilled that except for the set, which was designed by Director of Theatre Steve Schepker, all other production aspects were handled by students – lighting (Kathryn Steele of Baton Rouge), sound (Christopher Waltman of Denham Springs), and costumes, hair, and makeup (Shiloh Klein of Hammond). Lydia Caballero of Slidell is the stage manager, assisted by Meg Huben, also of Slidell.
Schepker also enlisted visual arts major Eric Danby of Hammond to co-design and help construct the set.
“I’m very excited about the students’ designs,” Winter said. “Steve’s goal and mine going into this was to make it a great opportunity for students to get some good, quality experience.”
While “Waiting for Godot” has no adult language or questionable content, Winter said it does deal with mature adult themes. “I don’t know that it would be appropriate for children, but I think teens would find it quite interesting,” he said.
For additional information about “Waiting for Godot,” contact the Department of Music and Dramatic Arts at 985-549-2184. The theater box office can be contacted at 985-549-2115.