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 Samuel Beckett, Happy Days

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Laura
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PostSubject: Samuel Beckett, Happy Days   Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:02 pm

My father will stage his very own production of Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days" next year. The play is something quite special, and I am unsure if it is a typical Beckett, so to speak. The story itself is simple: A woman is buried in a hill of sand up to her chest, and talks about life.

But: The text describes every single movement the actress is supposed to make. An example? Here goes. It's not totally accurate because I have to translate it back into English, but it should give you an idea.

"Another heavenly day."
Pause.
Head back to straight. Eyes to audience.
Pause. Folds hands in front of chest, closes eyes. Lips move in inaudible prayer, about ten seconds. Lips stop moving. Hands remain folded.
"In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
Eyes open, hands loosen and return to hill.
Pause.
Hands fold again in front of chest, she closes her eyes, lips move to inaudible afterthought, about five seconds.
"For all eternity, Amen."
Eyes open, hands loosen, return to hill.
Pause. "Begin, Winnie."
Pause. "Begin your day, Winnie."
Pause.

As far as I can see, this is pretty unusual for any play. Usually, you have the dialogue, and that's about it. Sometimes you have additions like "He begins to prepare the tea." - but in this play, this simple action would probably read something like "He takes out a kettle. Pause. He rummages through the cupboard. Stares blankly. Pause. He sighs deeply, then fills the kettle." etc.

In my eyes, this much detail takes away the director's creativity. What do you think?


P.S. It's 80 pages of this stuff, and yes, I've read it all. Strangely, you get used to it.

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PostSubject: Re: Samuel Beckett, Happy Days   Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:00 pm

This seems not only to deprive the director of creativity, but if the actor gets too many instructions - "Tilt you head. No, more!" I find they can become very wooden. I suggest you do some editing and run with what you feel is important. Otherwise, you may as well be directing robots in a modeling photoshoot.
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PostSubject: Re: Samuel Beckett, Happy Days   Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:47 pm

I don't know how it will turn out in the end. We found a very good actress for the part, but I am unsure of how closely we will stick to all the directions already incorporated in the text. If I understand my father correctly, it'll be pretty close, though. This is not to say we aim for a wooden effect such as the one you have described, but it is true that we have to stay close to the author's intentions - Beckett is quite strict as far as staging regulations are concerned.

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PostSubject: Re: Samuel Beckett, Happy Days   Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:40 pm

It almost sounds more like a movie screenplay than something for an actual play, with that much detail. And your father does not seem like a proponent of "ad-libbing", so to say. Still, I think he will be able to insert his own creativity, albeit in subtle ways, into this production. Let us know how the finished play turns out!

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