By Samuel Beckett Produced & Directed by John Montelone Starring Richard Miller
I'm writing a little more on this production because I love Beckett, existential theater and the full-circle experience of working with one of my long-time students who evolved to be able to brilliantly handle this text. Truly a wonderful memory for me. I learned a great deal from teaching, directing, and acting - I still do. Even reviewing photos from 20 year ago to put together these production pages, I'm remembering things I had forgotten - so I'm right in step with Krapp, the sole character in this play.
Beckett's humor kills me. 🙂 Mr. Krapp - well, it always reminded me of Shakespeare's existential and absurdist monologue in Macbeth - "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow creeps into this petty pace to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterday's have lighted fools, the way to dusty death. Out out brief candle. Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying... nothing."
Except Beckett says it better I think - not as poetic, but more slicing. Mr. Krapp - what a statement because whether the meaning of the word was the same, Crap and Krapp sounds pretty much the same to me. He's poking fun at our egos, and self-proclaimed importance. It's very important what's going on in this play and at the same time completely trivial in the scheme of things. I saw Krapp as a beautiful Buffoon, a clown of a man, trying to understand his past to hold onto something that continually slipped away out of reach - as he tried to think, remember, falling over himself, even in his chair, standing with a banana in his mouth bringing the humor of this play full circle - we're not only in our personal pasts, but we evolved from monkeys - and there he is, Monkey-Man Buffoon Clown Human strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage... And gone as the lights fade out.
This was a Professional Production paired with The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, performed at the Dowling College Performing Arts Center. I produced and directed two of my professional adult acting students who I had worked with for several years in classes, and other productions. Rick Miller, pictured here, was one of my long-time adult students in my Acting School and Theater Company that in residence at Dowling for 15 years.
Samuel Beckett showed us how minimalism coupled with deep human insight can manifest itself onstage to create profound realizations of our humanity and the human condition. The buffoonish baffled struggling little monkey-man playing with his technology trying to understand himself, and yet not really being able to comprehend it, find a center, control it - is captured in simple visual moments onstage in a single light. The deeper implications of existential theater is unsettling, the humor within his texts a tolerance for the condition as we are thrust into and swept away from ourselves without any control.. He was a great influence of mine. Directing his work, digging deep into the text, and each moment of this predicament is not only a lot of fun, but so eye-opening to discover those moments. They're reflections of our own desperation hidden beneath the surface of control. We worked long and hard on this play, discovering the nuisances that fit like pegs within the text. I had the luxury to rehearse my plays or any play I did for as long as I wanted to. Like Stanislavsky's Russian Moscow Art Theater, they did the same focusing on the importance of the process, towards a presentable result. Loved that! Too many view existentialism and theater of the absurd as nihilism and it's not. Sartre, Beckett and others were seeking a "way to live" within the absurdity of existence, finding real meaning for our individual lives instead of delusional or conditioned meaning that blinds us from reality - a connection of sorts to the experience rather than a way out, not a depression over it or a sense of doom. Although our own ultimate doom exists within the play, the humor is what keeps him alive. We focused on that, as well as the sense of doom and absurdity our existence brings to us. Making that work is no easy task.
Today with all the computer graphics and ads being thrown at us everywhere, and extravagant consuming and set design, we can easily lose the humanity that Theater is supposed to be examining. The entire art form is lost to entertainment and commerce. Nothing new. But, Beckett's plays break through that. ONE image, says more than entire films that cost tens of millions of dollars, and shove in our face the latest hot star who has the talent of a frog. One simple moment, in a light, with the clothe's on his back, and a tape recorder, we see our entire life, and the human condition. Brilliant and well conceived.
I think today, more than ever, minimalism in Theater and Film is important because it tears away the conditioning we are all being bombarded with that blinds our connection to our inner lives and the beauty of human thought. All created as a way to think and see and feel that benefits someone else's wallet, rather than an examination of the human condition, expanding us to greater awareness, to share that - and ways to try to live within the muck. My plays are heavily influenced by this simplicity - where the text, the actors presence, and ability to create a human story/character, is paramount. That's influenced by Beckett and other writers like him.
Back to the actor in this production - Rick was also my assistant for my 2 Solos, diligently watching and learning, as I was, and eventually wrote his own piece about his experiences in the Vietnam War - Veteran's Day I produced and directed as well. Rick is a very talented person - a writer, and actor, his work was moving, and as professional as any actor I had worked with in New York. Optometrist By day Actor at night doing Beckett! In a theater in the middle of Suburbia. Man, those are the people who need it most.
Beckett's very famous play deals with issues I have NOW, at 63. Much of this site I've created required me to sift through thousands of photos, many videos, and playbills, reviews etc. a time gone by - a past life I am not longer living - to put together a body or work to share with you and then moving onto new work. Memories like old movies sift through my mind. I wonder who I am now versus who I was then - I have regrets, as well as wonderful memories, I don't remember many things, I drop boxes of videos as I try to bring them to the digital master - I often feel like a man standing in a light with a banana in my mouth forgetting it's there, deep in unimportant thoughts - all vivid in my mind - and I am that clown - trying to grapple with a life in and out of art. Who are we as we grow and change? Does the image of who we thought we'd become the same as the person we are when we look in the mirror or within? Or have we evolved? Where is the meaning of it all? And many other questions that confront our existential condition here on this spinning rock - right here in my living room as I write this. Thank you Mr. Beckett.
And thank you Rick! You were terrific in this role. Beckett would have been proud, and I certainly was.