Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Beckett and the One Woman Show

“So to return to this production was like falling back into a dream I’d had before. Then I realized I felt that way the first time. That’s because these plays, like dreams, stir up dormant parts of your mind that you don’t acknowledge during the day. It even feels just right, if uncomfortable, that we are asked to sit in silence between the plays, listening to the wind in the darkness. (David McSeveney is the sound designer, and the unearthly music is by Tom Smail.)”

If you mention Samuel Beckett amongst a room full of theatre students, artists, or audiences, you will probably get the same response. Everyone thinks of Waiting for Godot and having to read it in some Intro to Theatre course where the professor was really unprepared for the material ahead. No one thinks of current theatre, or cutting edge. And certainly no one thinks of women.

If you mention, a one-person show, you tend to gather the same response… this preconceived notion of what the material already is, without even covering an inch of it. A one-man show won the Tony this past season, but that was a man. What happens when you pass it off to a woman?

This “triple bill”, led by the brave Lisa Dwan, of Beckett’s has a running time of under an hour which I think helps its popularity and increases its popularity. Particularly considering the biggest criticism of Waiting for Godot is its length. It’s also been shown before, which may help it’s sometimes difficult base texts. Either way I think it’s a feat in itself.

It’s intriguing to see a female carrying a one-woman-show about such a dense topic by such a significant playwright.

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3 comments on “Beckett and the One Woman Show

  1. Jenni
    October 10, 2014

    I love this! I am particularly impressed with BAM’s presentation of the work. They seem to be a presenting house that isn’t afraid of taking some risks, and I think this one was a good bet. I am also impressed at the under an hour run time, something I think a lot of one-person shows could really take a lesson from. However, since it is not only a one-woman show, but also three plays in one, it is even more fascinating to me. I’d really like to know how they have chosen to weave these three pieces together.

  2. amyjoforeman
    October 10, 2014

    This sounds amazing – i love that there is a spooky silence between the three performances.

    Personally, I love the idea of a one person play. “One Man Lord of the Rings” (one guy doing all 3 LOTR) still holds a place in my top 10 theatrical pieces seen. And I would have loved to see Alan Cumming’s “Macbeth.” I’ll admit I hear less about one WOMAN plays, but I don’t think a one woman play is any less likely to win a tony than a one man play. Allow me to expand: if there is a one woman play competing against a one man play for a “Best Play” category, I’m confident that the awarding committee would make the decision blind to any kind of gender discrimination. It’s been my experience that the theatre community is ahead of the curve on gender equality.

    What I’m really getting at: I think that, in general, audiences don’t care what’s in your pants, they just care how well you can perform.

  3. gormleykimberly
    October 11, 2014

    LOLLLING so much at Amy Jo’s last comment. That was a good one, AJ.

    I agree that arts audiences in general are ahead of the curve when it comes to gender discrimination. But the society we live in as a whole is not, and it is impossible to be totally immune from the collective thought processes of our culture. I think where this may come into play ( excuse the pun there) is with the “maybe” audiences; folks who are on the edge of saying yes or no to a play, and subconsciously find a “one man” play more approachable than a “one woman play”. That wouldn’t surprise me at all, even with the most progressive, sensitive person. Our visual and auditory media slants heavily to male dominated imagery and voices.

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