Very Unpromising Material: A Physical Reimagining of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot Open Access

McNiece, Maria (Spring 2020)

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In this interdisciplinary research project, I examine Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and physically reimagine the absurdist play through a full-length modern dance piece. Founded in dance, English, and theatre scholarship, this project considers Beckett’s influence on the theatre landscape; I investigate the development of the Theatre of the Absurd—a fiction style Beckett pioneered—in Europe after the traumas of World War II. Then, I analyze the historical underpinnings behind the creation of Waiting for Godot, as well as the initial reception and historical interpretations of the play. In this project, I pick apart Godot’s script to analyze its themes of existentialism and religious allegory—specifically relating to sacred covenants, the Biblical relationship between god and man, and motifs of repentance and salvation. After explaining positionality and choreographic influences, I research Maguy Marin’s May B (1981), Andrée Howard’s The Sailor’s Return (1947), and Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica (2011). The resulting findings yielded insight into how choreographers have historically worked from Beckett’s texts and synergized source texts into their creations. I apply a number of these methodologies into a choreographic process, as well as generated a number of original methodologies. This resulted in the creation of a full-length modern dance piece, which seeks to physically reimagine the original play. This work does not seek to literally retell the play, but rather aims to successfully translate the original text, deeply explore its themes, and include theatricality with innovative movement. This project culminates in two performances of a dance which sparks questions regarding human agency, resiliency, suffering, and above all, hope.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction: “Very unpromising material” and other writings on Waiting for Godot - 1                                                                                 

A. Beckett’s Biography and Revolution of Theatre - 3

B. Writings on Waiting for Godot: Existentialism and Religion - 17

1. Existentialism - 17

2. Religious Allegory - 21

a) God and Man - 22

b) Sacred Covenants, Repentance, and Salvation - 26

C. Criticism of Religious/Existentialist Interpretations - 33

II. Entry Points - 36

A. Movement Background - 36

B. Choreographic Influences - 37

C. Dance and Beckett: Maguy Marin’s May B (1981) - 43

III. Synergizing Text and Choreography: Researching and Applying Methodologies - 50

A. Stage and Studio: Creating Text-Based Choreography - 51

1. Andrée Howard, The Sailor’s Return (1947) - 51

2. Crystal Pite, The Tempest Replica (2011) - 56

B. National Dance Education Organization - 61

C. Bridging Past Experiences to Current Processes - 67

D. Creating Original Methodologies - 71

E. Conclusion - 77

IV. Artistic Choices - 78

A. Production Elements - 78

1. Theater Space - 78

2. Sound - 78

3. Costumes - 81

4. Tree - 82

B. Choreography - 83

V. Waiting: A Lived Theme - 100

A. Reflection and Takeaways - 100

B. Conclusion - 103

VI. Appendices - 104

VII. Bibliography - 127

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