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November 22, 2008, 1:00 PM

I'll Go On: An Afternoon of Samuel Beckett

Film Screening & Roundtable
Participants: Edward Albee, Tom Bishop, Alvin Epstein, Lois Oppenheim (moderator), John Turturro

Critic Ruby Cohn once wrote: "Beckett's plays are just play for precise performance. They are play as opposed to unmediated reality, but play is its own mode of reality." Just how does that "mode of reality" become operative in Beckett's theatrical vision? How does Beckett's use of language contribute to the look of the play? (Theater, after all, is a visual art.) How do the efforts of playwright, director, and actor come together to make a production of Beckett's work so identifiably and uniquely Beckettian? Beckett was notoriously meticulous in his stage directions. What is the meaning of directorial integrity in the light of such obsessive precision? How does an actor prepare to perform work by a playwright who sought ever less, not more, "color" on the stage? What can be said of the transcriptions of Beckett's prose works to the theater; what may be the origins of his preoccupation with the dehumanization of (wo)mankind; and how does he succeed in putting consciousness on the stage? These are but a few of the questions to be discussed by this celebrated cast of panelists, following a screening of a number of Beckett productions, including Ohio Impromptu (directed by Edward Albee) and some of his lesser known and rarely seen works.

Edward Albee was born on March 12, 1928, and began writing plays 30 years later. His plays include The Zoo Story, The Death of Bessie Smith, The Sandbox, The American Dream, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Tony Award), Tiny Alice, A Delicate Balance (Pulitzer Prize; Tony Award), All Over, Seascape (Pulitzer Prize), Listening, Counting the Ways, The Lady from Dubuque, The Man Who Had Three Arms, Finding the Sun, Marriage Play, Three Tall Women (Pulitzer Prize), Fragments, The Play about the Baby, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (Tony Award), Occupant, Peter and Jerry (Act 1, Homelife; Act 2, The Zoo Story), and Me, Myself, and I. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council, and President of The Edward F. Albee Foundation. Mr. Albee was awarded the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1980. In 1996 he received the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts. In 2005, he was awarded a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Tom Bishop is the Florence Gould Professor of French Literature, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Director of the Center for French Civilization and Culture at New York University. His many publications include From the Left Bank: Reflections on the Modern French Theater and Novel, Remembering Roland Barthes: 20 Years Later, and L'Avant-garde thétrale: French Theater Since 1950. Professor Bishop was co-curator of the Festival Paris-Beckett 2006-2007, held in venues throughout Paris and the Paris region. He has organized a number of other Beckett festivals, one of which was awarded an OBIE for achievement in off-Broadway theater. His writings on Beckett, on contemporary theater, and on France and French-American relations have appeared in Le Monde, The New York Times Book Review, Yale French Studies, and elsewhere. In addition to the Obie, Professor Bishop has been awarded the Grand Prize of the Académie Francaise and been named Officer of the French Legion of Honor, Commander of the French Order of Merit, and Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Alvin Epstein appeared as Nagg in the recent production of Endgame at BAM. He made his NY stage debut in 1955 with Marcel Marceau, then as the Fool in Orson Welles's King Lear. He went on to play Lucky in the American premiere of Waiting for Godot with Bert Lahr and E.G. Marshall (repeating the role for TV with Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith), and Clov in the American premiere of Endgame. He has acted in over 150 productions on and off Broadway and in regional theaters. He has been Associate Director of the Yale Repertory Theatre, Artistic Director of the Guthrie Theatre, and founding member of the American Repertory Theatre, where he acted for 25 years. He has appeared in many of Beckett's shorter pieces, including Ohio Impromptu, What/Where, Catastrophe, Eh Joe, Ghost Sonata, Words and Music, Cascando, and others. He is the recipient of numerous awards for acting, including the Obie Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lois Oppenheim is Distinguished Scholar, Professor of French, and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Montclair State University, where she also teaches courses in psychoanalysis and the literary and visual arts. She has authored or edited ten books and published over seventy articles. Her most recent books include A Curious Intimacy: Art and Neuro-Psychoanalysis and The Painted Word: Samuel Beckett's Dialogue With Art. Dr. Oppenheim is a member of the Advisory Board of The Philoctetes Center, as well as Scholar Associate Member of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and Honorary Member of the William Alanson White Institute.

John Turturro appeared as Hamm in the recent production of Endgame at BAM. He created the title role of John Patrick Shanley's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, for which he won an Obie Award. Other theater credits include The Bald Soprano, Waiting for Godot, the title role in Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Eduardo De Filippo's Souls of Naples, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, and most recently, Jasmina Reza's A Spanish Play at CSC. For his television work, Turturro was nominated for SAG awards for his portrayal of Howard Cosell in Monday Night Mayhem and for his portrayal of Billy Martin in The Bronx is Burning. He has appeared in over 60 films, including The Color of Money, Five Corners, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Quiz Show, Fearless, Box of Moonlight, Cradle Will Rock, The Good Shepherd, Miller's Crossing, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, and Barton Fink, for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival. For his directorial debut, Mac, he won the Camera D'Or at Cannes.


Discussion Board

This forum allows for an ongoing discussion of the above Philoctetes event. You may use this space to share your thoughts or to pose questions for panelists. An attempt will be made to address questions during the live event or as part of a continued online dialogue.
Deborah Gordon-Brown says:
So sorry I had to miss this. I look forward to being able to cath up on the video. Love Becket - well some of Becket. And, Mr. Epstein, I believe I studied mime with you as a member of IASTE in the early '60s. It was a life changing experience. Deborah Gordon

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