Directing Endgame – Designing Life after Cataclysm

November 12, 2012

By Edward Sobel, Associate Artistic Director

In my previous post I mentioned Beckett’s early drafts of Endgame contained specific information about time and place which he subsequently edited out. In the design process, we have tracked along a similar path.

The world of this play is fundamentally different from what many people expect walking into the theater. If you step into our production of Freud’s Last Session, you will see a striking facsimile of Sigmund Freud’s office – there are doors and walls and windows, and a radio and knick-knacks and books and glasses with drinking water and… you get the picture.

Beckett called for a reconfiguration of how we see theatrical space, and the theatrical event. He was not writing “realism”. He wrote, well, something else. Some have called it absurdism, though Beckett never took that title. Others call it minimalism. Whatever the label, the demands of this play are different.

The challenge we have been confronting is how specific we need to be, and what is the right level of abstraction. Given Beckett’s economy, and our attempt to match it visually, every choice we make becomes that much more magnified. The opening stage directions are “Bare Interior. Grey light.” But what is the nature of this bare interior? Is it, as some have suggested, antiseptic, like a hospital or nursing home? Something more domestic? Is it even a self-contained room? Is “bare” meant physically, metaphysically, or both?

The play is an examination of what happens after cataclysm. To Beckett, the cataclysm is being born. While I don’t fully subscribe to that philosophy, we nevertheless have used as a starting point the specifics of American cataclysm, both of its founding and of our own time. We have now begun the process of removing the inessential to arrive at… well, time will tell.

Below are few of the images set designer Kevin Depinet and I have been using as inspiration.


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