Play by Samuel Beckett 1963
Quad by Samuel Beckett 1981
The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco 1948
Directed and Choreographed
by Ruth Griffin
A work in two repeating parts, is typical of Beckett’s mature style in presenting a stream of consciousness monologue—in this case, three monologues—obsessively recalling events of the past—here, an adulterous affair. As is common in Absurdist plays, the characters do not speak to each other but rather are trapped within their own minds, an idea made concrete in this play through the urns. Oblivious of each other, the characters only truly respond to the light.
More than most playwrights, Beckett crafted the total performance of his plays, including lights, sound, sets and control over the actors’ bodies and stage movement. In Quad the players persistently turn to the left, avoiding the center. In his essay Alchemical Dances in Beckett and Yeats, Mimako Okamuro writes, “The four players revolving in a square may be understood to represent the four elements of the alchemical concept of nature [fire, earth, air, water].” They enact a ritual around a center that is never to be traversed.
The Bald Soprano
The first play by Eugene Ionesco, a Rumanian émigré living in Paris, The Bald Soprano is said to have been inspired by Ionesco’s efforts to learn English. The Bald Soprano revels in language as pure sound increasingly disconnected from meaning in much the same way that the abstract expressionist paintings of Jackson Pollack liberate color and form from representational realism. Ionesco also drew inspiration from the Dada movement in poetry and cabaret performance, which originated in neutral and multi-lingual Zurich during the First World War. Dada rejected logic and reason to embrace what movement co-founder Hugo Ball called “spontaneous foolishness.”. In other words he strove to awaken “the capacity for surprise.” The Bald Soprano premiered in Paris in 1950 to an audience of three; despite this inauspicious start, the play became a hit and is still running today, making it one of the most performed plays in the history of French theatre.
The choices Griffin makes and provides for her students and audience members involve nearly all of the teachings of arts and science…those involved in any way must grip with philosophy, literature, history, mathematics, psychology, etc.
I say all this to simply applaud what Griffin brings to Fresno.