Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hc-Gi258 Becket 20060628123655 - Directors, Take Note: Samuel Beckett Was A Micromanager:

In the 17 years since Beckett's death, the representatives of his estate have gone to extreme lengths to make sure those instructions are followed to the letter. They close or threaten to close productions that ignore them.

The estate's representatives, headed by Mr. Beckett's nephew, Edward, contend such strict adherence maintains the integrity of the Nobel Prize-winner's more than two dozen plays. Some in the theater say that it deprives directors of so much leeway as to be absurd.

In 1994, the estate canceled the European tour rights of a production of the play "Footfalls" in London because actress Fiona Shaw walked around the stage in a pattern different from what Beckett instructed in the text: to pace "downstage, parallel with front, length nine steps, width one metre, a little off centre audience right." Ms. Shaw also wore a bright red dress instead of the "worn grey wrap hiding feet" that Beckett's stage directions called for. In an email, Edward Beckett confirmed that the production was "curtailed" because "the company had broken the terms of their contract."

In 2003, Edward Beckett threatened to close a production of "Waiting for Godot" in Sydney, Australia, because director Neil Armfield added music to it. But the theater's contract with the estate didn't prohibit music, so the production carried on. "In coming here with its narrow prescription, its dead controlling hand, its list of 'not alloweds,' the Beckett estate seems to me to be the enemy of art," Mr. Armfield railed in a speech he gave the same year in Sydney to a symposium of Beckett scholars.