Thought-provoking theater

From last night through next weekend, students are being given a rare chance to see the work of the Nobel prize-winning playwright, Samuel Beckett.

Known as one of the greatest absurdist writers of all time, Beckett has had a great deal of influence on the theater.

“There’s hardly an author in the last 50 years who hasn’t at one point or another said that he or she wasn’t hugely influenced by Samuel Beckett. His influence on the theater has been truly profound,” said Director Christopher Steele. Beckett wrote such plays as Waiting for Godot, Endagame, and Play. Beckett died on December 22, 1989.

Directed by Christopher Steele and David Frankel, Samuel Becket: Four Plays includes a scaled-down version of four of Beckett’s most famous plays: Breath, Play, Act Without Words II and Catastrophe. “Catastrophe takes place during the final rehearsal of the play. Play presents three different views on the relations among a man, his wife and his mistress; Act Without Words II shows two men involved in their daily tasks, and Breath … creates a brief moment of existence,” said Frankel.

The performance is entirely student-run.

“Megen Byrne designed the lighting and sets; Deborah Wheatley designed costumes and props. The actors include Capria Holbrook, Anthony Casale, Brittany McLaughlin, Ray “Spaz” Walden, Brian Rich, Rusty Gillespie and Cliff Pressley (who also served as assistant stage manager). Vickie Schuster is the stage manager; Anna Alexander and Amanda Fernedes are the running crew; and Marina Haddock is the light board operator,” said Frankel.

“I think students should expect for it to be different from most of the theater that they have seen … the odds are reasonable that they will find it difficult at times … but I hope also, for at least some of the audience, intriguing,” said Steele. “Really good actors and fantastic directors are two things that (students) can expect to see. It is something that is thought-provoking and will make them think about the world they live in and about how interesting live theater can be,” said Julie Rose, special programs director.

“This production allows students to experience four of his short pieces, which cover a range of approaches to the persistent questions he set for himself about theater and life. I think that students should also be interested in seeing the work of other students. In addition, of course, we hope that students will be entertained and illuminated by the experience,” said Frankel.

This is not the first time that USF has put on a Beckett performance. “Many years ago I did these and a number of others, with a student who was at the time an honors student. A number of these have been seen but long before any students that are here now would remember it. Beckett’s not somebody that’s done all that often,” said Steele. Students be warned, this is not ordinary theater.

“I don’t think Beckett is an easy person to watch all the time. It’s not the sort of thing that you go to that at the end you’re going to be whistling the tune after you leave,” said Steele. “This is something different that a lot of students probably haven’t exposed themselves to, ” said Rose.

“Students will experience performance from a playwright that not a lot of theaters take on. Beckett can be a very deep and fascinating playwright to study and sometimes a hard playwright to direct. These are really good directors and they do it well,” said Rose.

Samuel Beckett: Four Plays runs March 24 thru Saturday and Wednesday thru April 2 at 8 p.m., and Sunday and April 3 at 3 p.m. in the Theatre Centre, Studio 120, Tampa campus. The Cost is $12 for adults and $6 for students and seniors.