The Paper Street Theatre co. is preparing for our second installment of fully improvised theatre with An Improvised Samuel Beckett. If you’re not familiar with Beckett, he was a poet, novelist, and theatre director, although most well known as a playwright. He’s been called the last modernist, and the first post-modernist. For more information read Waiting for Godot.
In short, Paper Street is improvising in the style of Theatre of the Absurd and so far it has been interesting to say the least and contradicting to say the most.
Improvisation is about telling stories and connecting ideas, whereas Theatre of the Absurd is more about dissonance, and nothingness – a world with no god in which language, and eventually everything else, breaks down into meaninglessness. Beckett was famous for making the audience watch a play where nothing happens in act I, and then making them watch it again in act II. It’s been a very strange experience listening to your scene partner only to bring an idea in from left field, or setting up a scene only to have it simply go in circles. We’ve had to take most of our improviser impulses and override them. So, how do we do it? If not from our partner, where are our impulses coming from? Well, we look to the man himself, Mr. Samuel Beckett.
In preparation, not only did we read plays by Beckett, but we read essays and articles on the author himself. To understand an author, you need to understand his life and his motivation. Beckett is what should influence our choices on stage. So I ask myself “What would Beckett write?” and go from there. So far, it’s been working great. Whenever I find myself lost — which isn’t a terrible thing when improvising Beckett — and act upon an impulse that I think Beckett would appreciate, my fellow improvisers love it, and comment on how “Beckett” that moment felt.
The show opens on Thursday this week and I can’t really get into how excited/nervous/curious I am to see how it turns out. When a Beckett show would open, half the reviews would say it was terrible, and half would say it was incredible. I expect similar results. Half our audience will probably not enjoy the show, but they’d have to admit that it felt like a play by Samuel Beckett. If you’re around Victoria, you should come. If you’re not, I’ll let you know how it how goes.