This December, we bring one of the Most Important Plays of the Last 100 Years to the Dixon Stage for the Holiday Season:

Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

“After all, other than our clowns, who among us has it all figured out?”

GodotPaul Kiernan (Gogo) and Dave Demke (Didi). Photo: Joey Miller.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company will stage Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot, at Dixon Gallery & Gardens from December 7-17.

TSC Producing Artistic Director Dan McCleary will direct Beckett’s masterwork, which many consider to be the most significant English language play written in the modern era, with inspiration from the holiday season.

Waiting for Godot, generously sponsored by Jaguar Bluff City, is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.  Artists employed in the production include members of Actors’ Equity Association and the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers, the national unions of professional actors, stage managers, and directors.

McCleary welcomes back a veteran cast of clowns which includes Paul Kiernan as Gogo (Henry V, Twelfth Night, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew), Dave Demke as Didi (A Midsummer Night’s Dream (twice), Richard III), Joshua Pearce as the boy (To Kill a Mockingbird), and founding TSC members Michael Khanlarian as Lucky (The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, To Kill a Mockingbird) and Phil Darius Wallace as Pozzo (Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

DeAnna Rowe returns as Costume Designer (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Comedy of Errors), and Jeremy Fisher returns as Lighting Designer and Technical Director (Much Ado About Nothing, All’s Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, Richard III).  Brian Ruggaber (Much Ado About Nothing) provides the original scenic design.  Melissa A. Nathan returns the A.E.A. production stage manager, and Bethany Fichthorn is the assistant stage manager.

All performances will take place in the Winegardner Auditorium inside Dixon Gallery & Gardens, located at 4339 Park Avenue, Memphis 38117.

Tickets are on sale now by logging on to www.tnshakespeare.org or by calling the TSC Box Office at (901) 759-0604.  Performances are December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16 at 7pm; and December 10 and 17 at 3pm. 

Tickets are $34.  The December 7 Preview is $16.  December 7 and 14 are Free Will Kids’ Nights: children 17 years and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paying/attending guardian.  Senior (age 62+ with valid photo I.D.) tickets are $29.  Student (with valid college I.D.) tickets are $16.  Dixon members receive 20% off tickets (no other discounts may apply).  December 8 is Opening Night, which welcomes patrons to a post-show reception with the actors.

Though no summary ever did justice to Waiting for Godot, the facts remain: Vladimir and Estragon meet near a tree and again expect to meet Godot.  While they wait, Pozzo enters on his way to the market to sell Lucky.  Pozzo sits.  Lucky dances and thinks for them.  After Pozzo and Lucky leave, a boy enters and announces that he is a messenger from Godot and that Godot will not be coming tonight but will surely come tomorrow.  After his departure, Vladimir and Estragon decide to leave, but do not move.  The next night, Vladimir and Estragon meet near the tree to wait for Godot.  Lucky and Pozzo enter.  Pozzo now is blind, and Lucky now is dumb.  Pozzo does not remember meeting the two men the night before, and he and Lucky depart.  Vladimir and Estragon wait.  The boy enters and announces the status of Godot’s arrival.  He insists that he did not speak to Vladimir yesterday. After his departure, Estragon and Vladimir decide to leave, but do not move.  The tree is changed.

“There is a code thinly buried in the play,” suggests McCleary, “and have to imagine that Mr. Beckett was conscious of it, given his wartime experience.  Significantly, he is on record as describing his play as ‘simple.’  Thematically, the code of his play is what we all have needed in order to co-exist as humans; and it is what we must suppress or destroy in order to do harm to one another.  It is a 10-letter word.  It is foundational to theatre and humanity.  And we remind ourselves of it, even celebrate it, regardless of our spirituality, at this time of year.  To me, Godot is our most cosmic response to humanity’s efforts to thrive, love, and consider our creators since King Lear.  But funnier.  After all, other than our clowns, who among us has it all figured out?”

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was an Irish writer of plays, novels, short stories, and poems in both French and English.  He wrote the first version of Godot in French, and it was produced in Paris in 1953, then in English in London in 1955.  It failed in its U.S. premiere in Florida in 1956, but was championed by a number of critics shortly after its Broadway premiere.   Those associated with the first productions include Sir Peter Hall, Bert Lahr, E.G. Marshall, and Herbert Berghof.  Since then, many of the world’s most recognized artists have collaborated on productions.  It remains one of the most produced plays in the world.  Mr. Beckett was seen as the flag-bearer of the Theatre of the Absurd, a dramaturgical iteration of what may have been initiated by Albert Camus in literature, preceded by the Dadaist movement, Surrealism, and Existentialism.  It is unclear the degree to which Mr. Beckett accepted this responsibility. 

“Mr. Beckett was clearly influenced by his literary and philosophical muses, including the Bible, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, Camus, Yeats, Shelley, his friend and mentor James Joyce,” says McCleary.  “But his creative impulse for Godot (the Irish pronunciation for “forever”) might well have been his flight from the German army during WWII in the French unoccupied zone, waiting years for a peace -- or whatever its substitute might be.”

Mr. Beckett, after escaping Paris for his native Ireland during the German invasion, then learned that Jewish friends were being targeted and imprisoned by the Nazis in Europe.  He chose to return to Paris to aid the Allies as a member of the French Resistance.  He would translate documents about Axis troop movements and then re-code them in microfilm hidden in matchboxes and toothpaste tubes.  A double-agent revealed his identity and forced him and his partner Suzanne (later, his wife) to flee and remain underground for the duration of the war -- waiting.  Mr. Beckett would hold special those in lock-up for the rest of his life. 

In a world in which war and domestic violence wage somewhere all the time, in which we attempt to suppress Galileo’s scientific discoveries in favor because religious or political doctrine won’t permit it, in which absolute radicalism is the normalized framing of a republic in an increasing number of quarters, in which poverty and torture exist, it would seem impossible to define Mr. Beckett’s play as “absurd,” which most people in the 20th Century did.

“In a production that will have a vaudevillian’s reflection of life, a clown’s courage and short-term memory, and the hope of a child – the moon comes out, a tree eeks out life, and there is above all Mr. Beckett’s ten-letter code,” says McCleary.  “Both in life and in this play, I take to heart author Henry Miller’s counsel to the artist:  ‘Convert the collapse.’”

Artists’ Bios

Samuel Beckett (Playwright) was a towering figure in drama and fiction who altered the course of contemporary theatre.  He was born in Dublin in 1906 and died in Paris in 1989.  Beckett's plays became the cornerstone of 20th century theatre beginning with Waiting for Godot, which was first produced in 1953.  Before Beckett, there was a naturalistic tradition.  After him, scores of playwrights were encouraged to experiment with the underlying meaning of their work as well as with an absurdist style.  As the Beckett scholar Ruby Cohn wrote: ''After Godot, plots could be minimal; exposition, expendable; characters, contradictory; settings, unlocalized, and dialogue, unpredictable.  Blatant farce could jostle tragedy.''  At the same time, his novels, in particular his trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, inspired by James Joyce, move subliminally into the minds of the characters.  The novels are among the most experimental and most profound in Western literature.  For his accomplishments in both drama and fiction, the Irish author, who wrote first in English and later in French, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.  He also was the recipient of Croix de Guerre in 1945.  At the root of his art was a philosophy of the deepest yet most courageous pessimism, exploring man's relationship with his God.  With Beckett, one searched for hope amid despair and continued living with a kind of stoicism, as illustrated by the final words of his novel, The Unnamable: ''You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.''  Or as he wrote in Worstward Ho, one of his later works of fiction: ''Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.''  Beckett was a man of great humor and compassion, in his life as in his work.  He was a tragicomic playwright whose art was consistently instilled with mordant wit.  As scholars and critics scrutinized his writing for metaphor and ulterior meaning, he refrained from all analysis or even explanation.  His greatest successes were in his middle years, in the 1950's with Godot and Endgame, and with his trilogy of novels.  He wrote six novels, four long plays, and dozens of shorter ones, volumes of stories and narrative fragments, some of which were short novels.  He wrote poetry and essays on the arts, including an essay about Marcel Proust (one of his particular favorites), radio and television plays, and prose pieces he called residua and disjecta.  Today, Godot is generally accepted as a cornerstone of modern theatre.  It is performed worldwide in schools and prisons as well as on public stages and, in its Grove Press edition, is a perennial bestseller.  With Godot and his other plays, Beckett influenced countless playwrights who followed him, including Edward Albee, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and David Mamet.  His other principal plays include All That Fall, Krapp's Last Tape, and Happy Days.

Dave Demke* (Vladimir) TSC: A Midsummer Nights Dream in 2009 (Peter Quince), A Midsummer Nights Dream in 2014 (Egeus; Choreographer & Voice/Text Coach), Richard III (director).  Select credits for Shakespeare & Company: Leap Year (Bill), King John (Salisbury), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Slender).  Other credits include Love Letters at Saratoga Shakespeare (Andrew), The Dick and the Rose at Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Sleeper), Measure for Measure at Maryland Shakespeare (Angelo), A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Beijing, China (Bottom), Richard III at Stark Raving Theatre (Richard), Noises Off at Mountain Playhouse (Tim Allgood), and Henry IV part 2 at Tygre’s Heart Shakespeare (Prince John).  Education: University of Minnesota (B.A. in Theatre) and University of Maryland (M.F.A. in Performance).

Bethany G. Fichthorn (Asst. Stage Manager) TSC: The Comedy of Errors (2nd Asst. Stage Manager), Henry V (production intern), All’s Well That Ends Well (production intern).  Bethany is delighted to be a part of TSC’s 10th season, and grateful for the knowledge and experience she has gained through the company.  She plans to attend the University of Memphis to prepare for a career in Theatre Arts. 

Jeremy Fisher (Lighting Designer and Technical Director)  TSC: Much Ado About Nothing, To Kill a Mockingbird, All’s Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, Unto the Breach, It's a Wonderful Life, and Hamlet. Jeremy, a graduate of Oklahoma City University, works annually with Theatre Memphis, Opera Memphis, Ballet Memphis, and Broad Avenue Arts.  In the past, he has worked for the Santa Fe Opera, Busch Gardens, and Northern Oklahoma College.  Other credits: lighting Memphis’ Broad Avenue Water Tower, recipient of the TAC Individual Artist award, 12 Ostrander Award nominations with four wins for his lighting designs during 2014-17.

Michael Khanlarian (Lucky) is a founding member of TSC, where his credits include The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About NothingTo Kill A MockingbirdHenry VAll’s Well That Ends WellTwelfth NightOthelloAs You Like It, and Romeo and Juliet.  Michael is a graduate of the University of Memphis. 

Paul Kiernan* (Estragon) TSC: Taming of the Shrew (Petruchio), Twelfth Night (Toby Belch), Richard III (Clarence, et. al.), and Henry V (Fluellen, et. al.).  Working at regional theatres across the country, Paul’s favorite roles include Cyrano (Cyrano) at the Hanger Theater, 12 Angry Men (Juror #10) and The Crucible (Reverend Parris) at Pioneer Theater, Skin in Flames (Dr. Brown) at Salt Lake Acting Company, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Falstaff) at Arkansas Shakespeare, and The Tempest (Stephano) at St. Louis Shakespeare.  Film and television credits include the HBO series From the Earth to the MoonLuck of the IrishGo FigureThe Cell 2, and Ice Spiders.  Paul is also a writer who has worked for Disney, and his plays have been produced in New York, Florida, Boston, and Michigan.  He is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.

Dan McCleary+ (Director) is the founder and Producing Artistic Director of TSC.  He recently managed the company’s purchase of its new home, which makes TSC the first permanent home for professional Shakespeare performance, education, and training in the state.  He currently is leading the capital campaign to raise the remaining $2.5 million to renovate the facility and create a New Home Endowment.  Dan has dedicated the majority of his adult life to the study, performance, direction, production, and fundraising of William Shakespeare and his plays.  He believes Shakespeare is for Everyone.

Melissa A. Nathan* (Production Stage Manager) returns to TSC for her fifth season.  Her previous TSC productions are The Taming of the ShrewRichard IIITwelfth NightAll’s Well That Ends Well, and Much Ado About Nothing.  Other regional credits include Buyer & Cellar and RED (Triad Stage), Because of Winn-Dixie and The Mousetrap  (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), The Learned LadiesOthello, and What the Butler Saw (Theater at Monmouth), Underneath the Lintel and Side by Side by Sondheim (Riverside Theatre), and Bonnie & Clyde (Asolo Rep).  She is a proud member of Actors Equity and is an executive board member of the Stage Managers’ Association.

Joshua Pearce (the boy) is a ninth grader at Lausanne Collegiate School, where he is a Theatre Arts student who has appeared in numerous school theatrical and choral productions.  Josh is happy to be back onstage with Tennessee Shakespeare Company and working with Dan McCleary, who entrusted Josh with his first professional production, To Kill a Mockingbird (Gem).  Most recently, Josh was seen as Jason in Falsettos at Theatre Memphis. 

DeAnna Rowe (Costume Designer) TSC: The Comedy of ErrorsTo Kill a Mockingbird.  DeAnna is the Assistant Professor of Costume Design at the University of Memphis Theatre Department.  She received her M.F.A. in Costume Design from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.  She has taught at Allentown College of St. Francis DeSales, Ohio University, and The Art Institute of Hollywood, California.  DeAnna has worked from coast to coast.  Some of her favorite collaborations include South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, CA, The Laguna Playhouse, Missouri Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Ballet, American Players Theatre, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and Glimmerglass Opera.  She recently worked with William Ivey Long Studios on the touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.  DeAnna is the owner and designer at Gypsy Dream Studios, where she designs and creates one-of-a-kind costumes to help her clients invoke their inner Superheroes and Unconventional Wedding Dreams.

Phil Darius Wallace* (Pozzo) is a founding TSC company member having appeared in many productions, most recently The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing.  He is a native of Flint, Michigan, where he was introduced to the world of performing.  Since that time he has attended Interlochen Arts Academy where he studied theater.  He studied for the profession of acting at SUNY Purchase in New York.  His professional experience includes Michigan Shakespeare festival, the Flint Youth Theater, the Attic Theater, and Hattiloo Theater.  He has been a company member with Playhouse on the Square, Voices of the South and is currently a company member with Play Back Memphis.  His film and TV credits include Nothing but the Truth and ABC's Nashville.  He also directed his own movie, 100 Lives, which is available on Amazon.  Along with the poetry of Langston Hughes, he has traveled around the country performing his one-man show on Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr.

* member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

+ member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.

 

Box Office Information

General Admission tickets are on sale now, Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm at Tennssee Shakespeare Company, 7950 Trinity Road, Memphis 38018; or by calling 901-759-0604, or by going on-line to www.tnshakespeare.org.

Tickets are $34.  The December 7 Preview is $16.  December 7 and 14 are Free Will Kids’ Nights: children 17 years and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paying/attending guardian.  Senior (age 62+ with valid photo I.D.) tickets are $29.  Student (with valid college I.D.) tickets are $16.  Dixon members receive 20% off tickets (no other discounts may apply).  December 8 is Opening Night, which welcomes patrons to a post-show reception with the actors.

Performances are general admission; first come/first seated.  Free parking.  No refunds or exchanges.  Credit card charges require a $1 per-ticket fee.  The cast and schedule are subject to change with notice.

About Tennessee Shakespeare Company

Tennessee Shakespeare Company is a professional 501(c)(3) theatre and education organization which performs the plays of William Shakespeare seasonally; performs classical and Southern writers seasonally; and provides innovative, year‐round educational and training programming. 

TSC was founded in 2008 by Memphian Dan McCleary as the city’s first and only professional, classical theatre and education organization.  On August 31, TSC purchased outright the former home of Ballet Memphis, which TSC will remodel into the state’s first and only permanent home for professional, year-round Shakespeare performance, education, and training.

Now beginning its tenth season, TSC has produced 40 site-specific plays and events for over 45,000 patrons in its nine years.  Its innovative Education program has reached 120 schools across seven states, totaling over 132,000 student interactions.

TSC now performs and teaches every month of the year, and annually plays to over 10,000 patrons annually, tours to 5‐6 southern states with its education shows, and is welcomed into at least 80 schools.  TSC’s education program has achieved a high regional and national profile.  The program has been endorsed by Shelby County Schools, Germantown Municipal Schools, Collierville Municipal schools, and the National Endowment for the Arts (one of just 40 U.S. theatres to be acknowledged).

TSC’s generous season sponsors include FedEx; the family of Ernest and Pat Kelly; Nancy R. Copp; Independent Bank; Tennessee Arts Commission; Ann and Wellford Tabor; Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund; International Paper; Evans/Petree, P.C.; International Paper; Arts Midwest; and The National Endowment for the Arts.  TSC’s season is funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee.