Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot
Susan Jackson, Juilliard's editorial director, spoke with one of Juilliard Drama's founding faculty members, Moni Yakim, about the challenges of presenting Beckett's masterful Waiting for Godot.
In February, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot will be performed at Juilliard for the first time in more than 20 years. Written in 1948 and ’49 and premiered in 1953, it was deemed the most important play of the 20th century in a British National Theatre poll, and yet it’s a thorny one to perform.
“It’s an interesting play, but a devastating one,” said faculty member Moni Yakim, who’ll direct the fourth-year production. “It was written after the war in a world in limbo, when people were disillusioned with what was promised. They didn’t believe in art—in anything—anymore, and they were totally disenchanted with anything that had a glimmer of promise for a better world.” Yakim was speaking on one of the first days of rehearsal, before the winter break. Among the Absurdist masterpiece’s challenges—for audiences and certainly for the director and cast—is that “It’s not a story—it’s not linear. It’s a state of being. It’s a state of existing. How do you work with that?” He continued, “We all hang on to a story when we read a book or go to a theater. We identify with the way people live—with angst and hope and despair—but we don’t have that here, there’s nothing to help us know why they are here. On one hand, it’s depressing. On another hand, it’s a comedy. We’ll discover it as we go.”