January 30, 2006
Spotlight shines on Samuel Beckett in ’06
For many years, Brenda Bynum considered it her artistic, aesthetic and perhaps even moral duty to bring the world of Samuel Beckett to Emory and beyond.
For most of 2006, Bynum should be in heaven.
Now retired from the theater studies faculty, Bynum is one of a handful of artists and scholars across the city who’ve joined together to organize the Year of Beckett, a festival celebrating the 100th birthday of the late Nobel Prize-winning playwright, author and critic.
Beckett was born in Dublin on April 13, 1906, and lived most of his life in France before his death in 1989. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, he was known for not only stretching but bursting through the artistic boundaries of every genre in which he worked. His work drew a devoted international following and has been translated into nearly 50 languages.
More than a dozen theater companies and universities around Atlanta will produce Beckett plays in 2006, starting with Push Push Theatre’s current production of Not I, directed by Bynum and featuring Emory theater alumna Park Krausen.
“It’s going to be a wonderful year,” said Bynum, a self-described “Beckett groupie” who calls the Irish writer “the cutest guy ever.”
“Atlanta is one of the few cities in the world where all of his plays have been produced,” she said, “and I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t have wanted to fling ourselves into this project.”
But the Year of Beckett is about more than just stage lights, and Emory’s connection with the festival goes beyond Theater Emory. Since 1990, the University has been home to the Beckett correspondence project under the direction of Lois Overbeck and Martha Fehsenfield, and the first volume is expected to be published next year by Cambridge University Press.
“Beckett is always relevant because he distilled something about the human spirit,” said Overbeck, who along with Bynum and Krausen is a member of the steering committee guiding the Year of Beckett.
Throughout the year, Emory will host a number of artistic and intellectual offerings related to the Year of Beckett, starting with a Feb. 2 lecture by Polish director Marek Kedzierski, who is visiting to direct a production of Endgame, also at Push Push. Kedzierski’s talk, scheduled for 4:30–5:30 p.m. in 202 Callaway, is titled “Between Languages: Translation and Transposition.” At a Jan. 24 reception that officially kicked off the Year of Beckett, Kedzierski said he relished the chance to speak “the language of Beckett” with a like-minded community.
“We understand Beckett better—or, rather, we misunderstand him less—if we join together,” Kedzierski said.
Indeed, Bynum and others involved with the festival acknowledged that Beckett is not the most accessible artist in the canon. But the truths he speaks, they said, have a way of shining through the oddity in which they’re spoken.
“The major single project of my years at Emory was to produce Beckett and involve students in those productions; a liberal arts education is incomplete with an exposure to him,” Bynum said. “And once you do a Beckett play—especially one like Not I—nothing will ever scare you again.”
Push Push’s production of Not I runs through Feb. 18. More information on the Year of Beckett, including the most up-to-date schedule of events, is available at www.yearofbeckett.com.