From Terry Nolen, Producing Artistic Director
One of the things that I love about choosing plays for the Arden is that our mission allows us to produce a great variety of work. Contemporary musicals such as Next to Normal; classic stories such as Cyrano; new plays such as Clybourne Park and the American classic that inspired it, A Raisin in the Sun. In our 24-plus years, we’ve produced an extraordinary group of writers, some to whom we’ve returned more than once: seven plays by Michael Hollinger; three by Michael Ogborn; two each by Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, and August Wilson; nine Shakespeares; ten Sondheims. With this production of Endgame, I am thrilled to bring the work of Samuel Beckett to our stage.
Samuel Beckett was a remarkable figure in world drama: an Irishman who lived in Paris, often writing in French and then translating his plays into English; a friend and confidant of James Joyce who also served as part of the French Resistance during World War II. As a dramatist, Beckett was a visionary and a revolutionary, transforming how stories could be told onstage. He was also famously private, determined to let his work speak for itself. In response to the persistent question, “What does it mean?, Mr. Beckett provided no answers, save, “I cannot explain my plays. Each must find out for himself what is meant.” He left us the words, images and rhythms. It is up to us to make sense of them.
Beckett was one of the most – if not the most – influential playwrights of the twentieth century (as detailed in Assistant Director Suzana Berger’s article). Beckett’s work also influenced generations of writers of fiction, film and even television (Tony Soprano and Al Swearengen in Deadwood have always struck me as characters inspired by Beckett’s anti-heros); and his plays have attracted some of the great actors of our time. When Associate Artistic Director Ed Sobel, who has a deep and abiding passion for Beckett’s work, suggested Endgame with Scott Greer as Hamm and James Ijames as Clov, I felt the thrill of possibility. Here are two actors who bring tremendous humanity, intelligence and humor to their work. They could have careers anywhere, but they have chosen to make Philadelphia their home. When we started the Arden in 1988, we wanted to help foster a vibrant Philadelphia theater community, one that could attract such extraordinary theatre artists as Scott and James. Who better to lead us into the world of Samuel Beckett?
A version of this letter appears in the stagebill for the Arden’s production of Endgame