"oh what a tangled interweb we weave..."

Monday, January 25, 2010

I can't go on. I'll go on.

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

And when you combine the two - you might as well ask me to trudge uphill in ankle weights carrying you and your living room sofa strapped to my shoulders.

^ Those first two lines have been sitting on my computer screen for the past 4 hours. It's not just because I got really slammed at work. I was fighting even writing anything else because of the awful broodiness the morning commute put me in.

Something about today... Today I feel more like a sculpture still trapped in its marble slab. For example: I started this blog at 11am and it's now 7pm. Chipping away.

Once the sun is down, I turn to Johnny Cash and June Carter to keep me going through the evening. There's a video (thank you youtube) of a performance from At San Quentin 1969- California's oldest prison and America's largest death row for male inmates. Directly below it is a performance from the Grand Ole Opry (Not sure anyone from the north really remembers what that is...). And I started thinking about Beckett. Stay with me here. I promise not to get all Absurdest on you.

I remember doing several research papers on Samuel Beckett and Waiting for Godot throughout high school and college (nerd). Partly because my fascination with it kept transforming as I got older, and partly because I'd already done the research... Godot is notoriously a difficult show to perform - a poor production of it is like watching bad Shakespeare - unbearable.

But one of Beckett's favorite productions in how it was initiated and received, was at a German Prison in 1953, months after it's premiere at Theatre de Babylone. I think it's obvious why this piece would have such an impact on this audience, a mass waiting...waiting... for what? But it was this performance that inspired him to produce his plays in prisons for years to come.

Specifically - San Quentin.

This is the part I didn't know: Waiting for Godot was performed in the old Gallows room, a converted space of 65 seats, in San Quentin in November 1957 - inspiring inmates to form the San Quentin Drama Workshop in 1958. As stated on their website SQDW was the first prison theater company in America, and the founders of the modern movement of theater in prisons. They are also the only American company to be directed by Samuel Beckett.

Are my facts totally off? Or is that totally awesome?

There are many stories like this, where theater has the ability to change perceptions and give rise to creativity in unexpected contexts. Referencing back to Josh K's post - not everyone is going to like what you do, but your audience will. I'm not saying that the only people that like Beckett are in prison - that would be absurd - but that it was one of the more unexpected audiences. And as long as you are creating something that you think is important, it will find its following.

It happens that, in this instance, for Samuel Beckett he was just as moved by this specific audience as they were by him. I believe that's the ideal dialogue between artist and audience.

I promised myself I wasn't going to close with a quote from Godot, because that's too kitschy... But this one I couldn't pass up. As I'm encouraging dialogue and two sided conversations - I echo the following:

Vladimir: "Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a while?"


1 comment:

  1. I have also been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash lately! I'm slightly obsessed with Folsom Prison Blues. And Cocaine Blues. All those blues-y songs...