Todd Jefferson Moore (left) as Vladimir and Darragh Kennan as Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” which plays at ACT Theatre as part of Seattle Beckett Festival in September. Photo by John Ulman
Todd Jefferson Moore (left) as Vladimir and Darragh Kennan as Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” which plays at ACT Theatre as part of Seattle Beckett Festival in September. Photo by John Ulman
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In the spirit of community, a group of more than 20 arts organizations will join forces from August through November to celebrate 20th-century author Samuel Beckett on a citywide scale in the first-ever Seattle Beckett Festival.

“This is a rare opportunity to see, honestly, some pieces that have never been produced in Seattle ever,” said festival organizer George Mount.

What initially started as a five-year desire to direct his dream production of “Waiting for Godot” grew into a large festival presenting not only that play but other works written and inspired by Beckett, who was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in literature.

“[‘Waiting for Godot’ is about] guys on a journey not knowing what to do or where to go, but they know there’s something out there for them, and I kind of felt that way,” Mount said.

Artistic director of the Seattle Shakespeare Festival, he noted that part of what he found appealing about Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” is that it is Shakespearean in its thought but populist in its origin. Mount’s production of “Waiting for Godot” will take place Sept. 3 through 21, at ACT Theatre (700 Union St.) in Downtown Seattle.

A ‘team effort’

Mount approached colleagues in the theater community, proposing they participate with other Beckett productions in their fall lineups.

“The response was immediate and enthusiastic,” he said. “They all got excited about it.”

Participating organizations include ACT Theatre, ArtsWest Theatre, Azeotrope, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Cornish College of the Arts, Eclectic Theater, Endangered Species Project, Couth Buzzard Bookstore, Ghost Light Theatricals, New Century Theatre, Northwest Film Forum, ReAct Theatre, Sandbox Radio, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Seattle University, Operating Theatre, Theatre on the Waterfront, Sound Theatre, Theatre Puget Sound, UMO Ensemble and West of Lenin. They will feature plays by Beckett, as well as readings of his poetry and prose, screenings of his films, master classes on Beckett, pop-up performance events, presentations of some of his radio plays and more.

“It’s a team effort all the way,” Mount said, adding that the four months of the festival offer audiences enough time to decompress and think about the productions they have seen before the next one comes up. “It’s still an evolving, growing, changing beast, which I also kind of think is exciting.”

“It’s a thrill because Seattle’s a pretty close-knit community as far as theater companies go,” agreed AJ Epstein, owner and operator of West of Lenin (203 N. 36th St.), an 88-seat black-box theater and studio space in Fremont. “We’re playing in our own sandboxes, but we’re playing with similar material.”

Epstein is directing “Rockaby” and “Come and Go,” two of the four short plays presented in “Life=Play,” the opening production for the festival, at West of Lenin through Aug. 24. In the play “Rockaby,” audiences hear the internal monologue of a woman (performed by Susanna Burney) during the final moments of her life. “Come and Go” — performed by Rachel Delmar, Kate Kraay and Kate Sumpter — is described as a “dramaticule” of small talk and gossip.

The other two plays included in “Life=Play” include “Act Without Words,” a one-man mime play (performed by Ray Tagavilla and directed by Carol Roscoe) that follows a man, alone and desperate, being taunted by a greater power. The finale of the evening will be “La Dernière Bande” (“Krapp’s Last Tape,” in French with supertitles), directed by and performed by M. Burke Walker.

“Beckett’s short works embody a spirit of playfulness and show his bold experiments with craft and structure in ways that the full-length works don’t always allow room for,” Epstein noted.

Following “Life=Play,” Sandbox Radio will present “Sandbox Radio Live: Beckett on the Radio,” a collection of radio plays by Beckett.

“There’s so many interesting things happening on every level,” said Leslie Law, creator and producer of Sandbox Radio.

The company will present “All That Fall” and “Words and Music,” at West of Lenin on Aug. 29 through 31.

“I’ve always been a fan of his language,” Law said of Beckett. “He’s one of those rare writers that you can enjoy on the page almost as much as in performance.” 

Even more planned

Some newly added special events, in addition to the Beckett productions, include a Beckett song-and-comedy show on Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Couth Buzzard Bookstore (8310 Greenwood Ave. N.), as well as a series of three pre-show talks. All of the talks will start at 6:15 p.m.

The first talk, “Beckett 101: Who is Beckett?” will be presented by Sean McDowell on Aug. 21 at West of Lenin, prior to “Life = Play: An Evening of Short Works and Rarities.”

The second talk, “Beckett 101: Beckett and Philosophy,” presented by Greg Perkins, will take place on Sept. 18 at ACT Theatre, prior to Seattle Shakespeare Company’s “Waiting for Godot.”

The final talk, “Beckett 101: Beckett’s Body of Work,” presented by Jane Nichols, will take place on Nov. 13 at The Ballard Underground (2220 N.W. Market St.), prior to Ghost Light Theatricals’ “Endgame.”

“It a very rare opportunity and a wonderful chance for all of the organizations large and small to come together to make this happen,” said Teresa Thuman, producing artistic director for Magnolia-based Sound Theatre, which will present “5 By Beckett,” a cycle of short plays exploring the evolution of silence and language, from Oct. 30 through Nov. 9 at ACT Theatre.The evening of plays includes “Act Without Words I and II,” “Rough for Theatre I and II” and “Catastrophe.”

“They’re like small explorations of different aspects of his plays, particularly ‘Godot,’” Thuman said of the upcoming production, adding that Ken Michels, a movement and clown performer, who is in four of the five plays, “becomes kind of the silent presence throughout the evening.”

“I’m looking forward to hopefully have a chance to see a lot of the work,” Thuman said.

For more information, visit www.seattlebeckettfest.org.

JESSICA DAVIS is a Seattle-based arts writer. To comment on this story, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.