This is the repetitive dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon in Irish playwright Sameul Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The story revolves around two men standing by a tree waiting for a character named Godot (the pronunciation is God-oh). While waiting, the duo talks about many absurd issues, arguing and reconciling, and figuring out games to fill in the time. The absence of this unknown being creates an agitated atmosphere.
Since the script was published in 1952, Waiting for Godot has been put on stage ceaselessly. Now, the Garry Hynes-directed production of Waiting for Godotfrom Ireland’s distinguished Druid Theatre will play Off-Broadway from October 16th to November 18th, in Lincoln Center’s 2018 White Light Festival.
Garry Hynes co-founded the Druid Theatre Company in Dublin in 1975. She’s worked as the Artistic Director from 1975 to 1991, and from 1995 to present. Her brilliant list of awards includes the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1998), the Joe A. Callaway Award for Outstanding Directing for The Cripple of Inishman (2009). She received The Irish Times/ESB Irish Theatre Awards for Best Director for DruidShakespeare, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and Waiting for Godot, as well as a Special Tribute Award for her contribution to Irish Theatre (2005).
One concern about adapting a classic literary work is that how to surprise the audience? In an interview, Director Hynes said:
You never know how a production is going to be responded to and you certainly never know in a play like this…One of difficulties in actually rehearsing the play was as you were setting it up, you were looking at this iconic images coming to life. One the one hand, I’ve seen this all before, in a hundred other productions or photographs, and yet at the same time you’re trying to own it and make this something that comes out of your own heart. So, to have audiences respond in such a way saying, ‘Wow! I love that’ rather than saying ‘Oh, I’ve seen Waiting for Godot.’ That’s been great.
HIV Prevention Day is upon us, which means that now is a great time to read up on the history of HIV awareness, get tested, ruminate on the stigmatization of HIV and AIDS, get tested, share relevant literature with your friends, bring them along to get tested, get educated on the ongoing struggle to secure life-saving drugs for all, and also, get tested.
Literature has played a key role in the advancement of HIV and AIDS discourse, so what better way to commemorate today than by picking up one, or two, or all of these great works?
1. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
And the Band Played On was published by Randy Shilts, of The San Francisco Chronicle, in 1987. It is a non-fiction account of the reaction and response from several groups to the emergence of the AIDS virus in the United States, including the gay community, the medical community, the political community, and the media. For Shilts, the book was about more than a simple historical chronicle:
Any good reporter could have done this story, but I think the reason I did it, and no one else did, is because I am gay. It was happening to people I cared about and loved. – The New York Times
2. How to Survive a Plague by David France
How to Survive a Plague was written by investigative reporter David France in 2016 after having been a documentary he directed in 2012 (one of the rare cases in which book follows movie). Both works are a historical account of the early years of the AIDS crisis, with a particular focus on the work of ACT UP and its splinter organizations. The publisher’s website describes it as “an unparalleled insider’s account of a pivotal moment in the history of American civil rights,” but more than being a retelling of events, How to Survive a Plague never lets you forget the humanity of the people who were affected, and continue to be affected, by the crisis.
3. The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer
The Normal Heart is widely known as Larry Kramer’s magnum opus. Kramer is an activist who has been steadfastly fighting for an end to the AIDS crisis since the very beginning. The Normal Heart is a semi-autobiographical tale of the foundation and later dissolution of a prominent AIDS activism group. The play is based on Kramer’s experience founding and later leaving the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The play is an honest portrayal of the struggle within activist communities to decide between loud, confrontational forms of protest or calmer civil disobedience.
4. Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Angels in America is Tony Kushner’s two-part magical realist play set in the mid-to-late eighties. It follows the stories of a large cast of characters who are each affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis, including a fictionalized portrayal of real-life McCarthyist lawyer Roy Cohn as one of the victims of the AIDS virus. Kushner’s play has been produced several times, including the recently concluded Broadway run starring Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield.
5. Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs
Dry was published in 2003 by acclaimed memoirist Augusten Burroughs. While the main plot of the memoir revolves around Burroughs’ struggle with alcoholism, Part II also describes the decline in health of Burroughs’ ex-partner and friend due to HIV. While not solely about HIV and AIDS, Dry offers an intimate portrayal of the way the health crisis affects close personal relationships.
6. The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman
The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sara Schulman is a memoir that details the story of the AIDS crisis from 1981-1996. Schulman tells the story through the lens of her experiences among her artistic friends in the queer community in the Lower East Side. The book is known for how Schulman layers the description of her personal experiences with an astute intellectual analysis. Schulman is a dedicated activist, and continues to work toward the advancement of queer rights.
7. AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag
AIDS and Its Metaphors is a work of critical theory published in 1989 by the inimitable Susan Sontag. It is a companion to her 1978 book Illness as Metaphor, which covered the often victim-blaming metaphors used to describe various illnesses. AIDS and Its Metaphors anchors itself specifically in the way people talk about AIDS, challenging the typical narratives that tend to stress the culpability of the victims. Sontag’s work seeks to undo the guilt and shame forced on victims of the AIDS virus and change the way the virus is discussed.
8. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day is a novel by acclaimed playwright and Pearl Cleage. It follows the story of Ava Johnson, a young black woman who relocates from Atlanta to her hometown in Michigan after being diagnosed with HIV. The novel includes a large and vibrant cast of characters whose stories are told alongside Ava’s. The book was very highly rated and chosen for Oprah’s Book Club in 1998.
9. Queer and Loathing: Rants and Raves of a Raging AIDS Clone by David B. Feinberg
Queer and Loathing: Rants and Raves of a Raging AIDS Clone is the first nonfiction work by renowned author and activist David B. Feinberg. The book is a collection of essays describing Feinberg’s experience living with AIDS. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be Feinberg’s last; he passed away shortly after its publication. After his death, a recording of him reading from Queer and Loathing was featured in the PBS series Positive: Life with HIV.
10. Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Don’t Call Us Dead is a book of poetry by Danez Smith. The book explores the various environmental factors that affect the mortality of the black community, especially HIV. Danez themselves is HIV-positive, and has made it a point to write through their life experience and provide a point of relation for others. In an interview with Mic, they said:
My job is to live and pay attention to other people living around me in order to archive it for whoever may stumble upon it. It’s the poet’s job to make sure there is a record of what it meant to live, love, fight, rebel and be in their brief time on Earth.
Aside from Shakespeare’s classics, it seems as though the reading of plays is a dying art form. It’s not that people don’t still read plays, but in my personal life I get the sense that not many of my friends are choosing to pick a play to read over the classic novel format. I find that written scripts can sometimes even be more fun to read than an actual book can be; reading to-the-point stage directions is a fascinating way to get a point across without having to delve too much into prose and detail. Some of the greatest and most important pieces of literature I’ve read are plays, and I would like to share seven of my top favorites that are great fun whether you’re reading or watching them!
Pronounced with a silent “t” Waiting for Godotwas written by Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett, and first performed in 1953. It’s very much an absurdist tale featuring two men whose lines don’t necessarily coincide or make sense together, but who are, as the title would suggest, waiting for a man named Godot to tell them what they must do and where they must go next. Naturally, Godot never makes his appearance and the two men resolve to hang themselves upon a single tree inhabiting the stage the next day should he fail to arrive again. They agree to clear the stage after coming to this conclusion, but rather just continue to stand there until the lights fade to black (or you read the final stage direction indicating the same). Beckett was known for this sort of absurdist writing, and Godot is probably his most well-known play though its plain strangeness can be both funny and frustrating.
2. Six Characters In Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello
Image Via TVTropes
Luigi Pirandello was an Italian dramatist whose major work Six Characters In Search of an Authorwas first performed at the Teatro Valle in 1921. Pirandello is thought of as a precursor to a theatre movement known as “Theatre of the Absurd.” This particular play is in fact a play within a play, and it begins when a theatre company is rehearsing their latest show. The rehearsal is not going well, and out of nowhere a family of six find their way onto the stage, imploring the creative team to write them a story to be performed. Their misfortune, you see, was that they had been characters written into a play that was abandoned by its author. The play unfolds as the family describes the vestiges of the life their previous “father” had given to them. Reading this play can be quite the trip because of the constant question nagging at your mind, “What exactly is reality, anyway?”
3. A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen
Image Via HuffingtonPost
Ibsen was a playwright whose work was influenced tremendously by his life in Norway. His characters tend to be sullen and depressed with their lives, and feel an inescapable sense of hopelessness. A Doll’s Housewhich was first performed in 1879 tells the story of Nora Helmer, a wife and mother who becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the life she is living. She wants to make a change from her life and its routine, and finds her husband patronizing, narcissistic and proud. A Doll’s House is a huge forerunner in terms of showing a woman openly express her unhappiness with wifely and maternal duties, and the show ends with Nora making an incredibly strong-willed and controversial decision that Ibsen himself stood by until the day he died.
4. No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre
Image Via TheatreMania
No Exit, which first premiered in 1944, was written by the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. The play opens with three characters: Joseph, Ines, and Estelle who find themselves inhabiting a small room in a corner of hell. Mayhem inevitably ensues amongst the three damned souls; as Ines is attempting to seduce Estelle, Estelle is attempting to seduce Joseph. They confess the sins committed in life that brought them to this place in death, but their confessions do nothing to abate the situation. As the story progresses, we the readers and/or audience members discover that the message behind Sartre’s play is that hell is other people. Ouch. Burns more than the fires of hell.
The Importance of Being Earnestis probably one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous works. It was first performed in 1895, and the opening night was in and of itself a wild ride. Despite how well it did that first night, this was also the moment Wilde’s sexual preference came to light and ultimately helped to result in his death. The Importance of Being Earnest is a play of farces that pokes fun at societal norms and the burdens that come along with them. We learn of two friends, Algernon and Jack who both wish to escape from their individual lives, and both fall in love with women who help to create even more misunderstandings throughout. It’s clear that Wilde had a lot of fun writing this play that so blatantly satirizes the strict conventions of the Victorian era. While I think this play is crazy fun whether you’re reading it or watching it performed live, I think it’s worth it to find a movie clip of the very classic “muffin” scene. You won’t regret it.
6. The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov
Image Via WHYY
Chekhov was a Russian writer whose play The Three Sisterswas first performed at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1901. It tells the story of a brother and his three sisters who live together in their deceased father’s home. Their father had died over a decade prior, and ever since the tragedy they dream of one day moving back to “the big city.” The years pass them by, however, and they only ever discuss their dreams of leaving Moscow. Misfortune follows the family at every turn, and their brother eventually marries a working class woman who slowly but surely takes full control of the family’s estate until they are practically pushed out and onto the streets. Without a doubt, this character exists as a symbol of the Russian working class versus the upper and wealthier classes.
7. Mother Courage and Her Children, Bertolt Brecht
Image Via theglobeandmail
Brecht was a German writer whose play Mother Courage and Her Childrenwas written in 1939 and is often considered one of the best plays of the 20th century as well as one of the best anti-war play that exists. Brecht also had a kooky way of presenting his theatre to audiences, he liked to pull the audience out of their experience by having various crew-members enter the stage with giant signs indicating time and setting; he wanted people to take values away from his shows, to let them know that these were shows, but that this is also real life as well and to fight for your rights (cue Beastie Boys). The play takes place in a war-torn 17th century Europe, and the title character of Mother Courage finds herself running from the war in a caravan filled with supplies and her three strange children.
Whether you read these plays, or have the good fortune to see them performed, their stories are important and continue to resonate across time and space.
Jennifer Lawrence is frequently attributed as the most relatable celebrity, due to some clumsy slips and an obsession with pizza. Viewers of the Broadway adaptation of 1984 who puked can now also wipe their brow and feel related to.
Lawrence wasn’t the first to get sick at this show (though she chalks it up to the flu and not the performance) as several ticket holders have had troubles with stomaching the troubling scenes.
The star of the play, Olivia Wilde, tweeted her thoughts on the occurrence, saying she felt hashtag-honored.
This is Wilde’s debut into Broadway. Wilde and other cast members are attributing to The Hollywood Reporter these instances to the torture scene. “I’m not surprised since this experience is unique, bold and immersive,” says Wilde. “It allows you to empathize in a visceral way, and that means making the audience physically and emotionally uncomfortable.’
Wilde and Sturridge, via Just Jared
Apart from being violently ill, the audience has also become just violent. Cops have been called when arguments broke out between members of the crowd when it got out of hand.
The directors of the show rated it for children 13 and above for a reason. They refused to dilute it for audiences. “We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people, but there’s nothing here or in the disturbing novel that isn’t happening right now, somewhere around the world…” says Duncan McMillian, co-director of “1984”.
“We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself… But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines. Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit.” said the other director Robert Icke to Daily Mail.
Winston after torture, via Deadline
Doing more than just avoiding the “sanitization” of torture, the play’s torture scene features flashing strobe lights, jackhammers, and fake blood. Actor Tom Sturridge, who plays Winston, makes a point to stare in the eyes of audience members as he is electrocuted, to make them feel complicit while he is suffering.
The actors suffered for some of the performance, as well. Sturridge broke his nose, Wilde broke her tailbone and split her lip during the previews. Despite all the pain and sickness, critics have said that the show is “worth the cost of your losing your lunch.”
“1984” has amassed more popularity, even though it is over 50 years old, it still rings true. In a year where books sales are low, read the article to find out why that could be it was able to top charts again, with the help of Trump’s presidency.
Last year, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” premiered at Palace Theatre in London, leaving every city other than London Harry Potter-less. It was announced in May, however, that “Cursed Child” will be making its Broadway debut at the Lyric Theatre on April 22, 2018. And now we have a cast announcement: the lead cast from London will reprise their roles in New York.
The cast is as follows:
Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger
Jamie Parker as Harry Potter
Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley
Poppy Miller as Ginny Potter
Sam Clemmett as Albus Potter
Alex Price as Draco Malfoy
Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy
Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker, and Paul Thornley / via BBC
“Cursed Child” is a two-part play that picks up the baton 19 years after “Deathly Hallows.” The story follows Harry Potter, now a Ministry of Magic employee, who must reckon with his past as his son, Albus Potter, begins at Hogwarts. Along the way, Albus forges an unlikely friendship with Scorpius Malfoy, Draco’s son.
You can register for tickets on Broadway starting October 1 at 10am right here.