A Night All About Beckett by Klara Kurti ('17)

            October 9th, 2014 the ACES clan strutted with Professor Murtha down the streets of Brooklyn to the BAM Harvey Theater to watch three Samuel Beckett plays performed on stage. Unlike Professor Murtha who practically lives at the theater, the rest of us were not sure what to expect from Beckett. As for myself, I was anxious to finally see “Not I” performed in front of me. We had read some of Beckett's plays in class and watched them on YouTube, but I never imagined what the real life experience would be until the very moment the first play started.

            In order to prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally, we first headed over to Graziella’s to grab dinner. This, of course, was followed by dessert and coffee. Being around such a diverse community, the conversation never once got dull. Everyone had something to share and the table was never silent. Whether the topic of discussion was food, books, class, summer, or traveling, words kept flowing into different conversations and a diverse sound of laughter filled the room. It's incredible how such different, unique individuals can come together around a small table and find so much in common.

            After three hours of laughing and eating, we finally felt we were prepared to put our “poker faces” on for Beckett. When we arrived at the theater we all took our seats and were patiently waiting for the rest of the audience to sit. Most of the people surrounding us were middle aged and varied in their fashion styles. Some were casually dressed while others looked a little bit dressed up. I couldn't help but focus on the very first row, which was completely filled. The men sitting there all had jackets on, and the majority of them had white hair. They all looked very prestigious and serious. I'm assuming they were dedicated Beckett fans who reserved their seats months before the show. Professor Murtha would have fit in perfectly with them in the front, all she needed was white hair and fifty years added to her age.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Harvey Theater

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Harvey Theater

Mouth from "Not I" 

Mouth from "Not I" 

            At exactly 7:30 PM the lights all turned off and the audience fell into a silence. In many theaters, when the lights turn off, the EXIT lights usually stay on, but the whole room was pitch black. No sounds were heard, no more whispers, not even heavy breathing. It almost felt as if I had fallen into a deep sleep but my mind was still awake and ready to process whatever was coming next. Suddenly, a light hit the middle of the stage and a quiet voice slowly grew louder. There it was, Mouth! I couldn't believe my eyes; the mouth was so small compared to the room, but her voice echoed from corner to corner. I tried my hardest to process all the words that were being said, but they were coming out at lightning speed, so I tried to just enjoy the experience, rather than understand what she was saying. At the very beginning, I was very focused, but after a few minutes, due to the darkness, it almost felt as if time no longer existed. I couldn't tell what time it was or what year it was or when the play was going to finish. It almost gave me an uneasy feeling because everything was moving so fast, but at the same time so slowly. After about ten minutes, Mouth disappeared, and some of the lights turned on.

            When the second play, “Footfalls” began, the man next to me was already asleep. If Beckett had known, he would've been turning over in his grave. In this second play, more lighting was used and the uneasy feeling went away. Time moved very still because the woman performing spoke in a very monotone voice and the play was never ending. I was shocked when halfway through the play I learned that the actress, Lisa Dwan, was the voice of May and her mother. After fifteen minutes, it felt as if the play was going to continue forever. All you could see was a woman pacing back and forth, with her footsteps clicking onto the floor with every step. The anxiety was back, and it would not leave this time. The woman kept the same pace, the same vocal speed, and the same facial expression for thirty whole minutes.

            Finally, when the third play, “Rockaby,” started, I was already mentally exhausted and trying to process everything I had already seen. I tried to keep my attention on the stage but after a while, the lines were being repeated, the same movements followed, and I felt restless. Needless to say, the man next to me was still sleeping, and he did not have a worry in the world. I thought about waking him up many times, but I was afraid of giving him a heart attack.

            Overall, my experience at BAM was very fascinating. The out of body experience I felt while watching the plays has stayed with me since that day. The removal of time and space really made the plays more appealing because you never knew when they would begin or when they would end. It's so fascinating how certain plays and stories can be read one way and when you see them being performed in front of you, it's a completely different experience. The faces look different, the movements are different, and the words are pronounced in a different tone than you imagined when you were reading. Due to the fact that I was only familiar with “Not I,” it was my favorite of the three plays. It kept my attention the whole time and it was the only play that really played a trick on my mind. Actress Lisa Dwan did an amazing job showing us just how fast our mind moves, and no matter how hard we try to focus on our thoughts or try to process things through our mouth and language, we are never fast enough.