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Beckett and Still, Kaufman and Cole

Your Humble Blogger has for a long time had an idea about modern non-representational art that doesn’t appear to have made it to this Tohu Bohu. Essentially, it’s that if you look at a work of representational art—say, a landscape—and if you don’t get what’s good about it, or more important, even if it’s kinda crappy, you can still say oh, trees, sky, hill, got it and there you are. If you look at a non-representational piece and you don’t get what’s good about it, or if it’s kinda crappy (no link there, thanks), then you don’t have anything at all. No trees or sky. No face or body. Nothing to hang on to.

And there is, I think naturally, a sense that you’re being ripped off, or made fun of somehow, or are otherwise at a disadvantage. I think that’s part of why people get angry about it. If you don’t get it, you don’t get anything at all, and it just makes it worse that the circumjacent hipsters are murmuring exquisite… absolutely exquisite.

The reason I bring this up in this Tohu Bohu at this time, having espoused the idea in conversations over many years, is that Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are bringing their Godot to Broadway. And a large number of my friends had reactions that were probably best characterized as Oh, no, not Godot. Which is of course legit—people are different, one to another, and like and dislike different plays. But what I’m wondering is whether my idea about non-representational art applies to Samuel Beckett’s plays. If you don’t like them and/or you see a kinda crappy production, there may not be anything there at all. If you see a kinda crappy production of You Can’t Take it With You, well, there’s a plot, and problems with resolutions and so forth. You may not enjoy it, and you may well feel ripped off, but you have something. Godot or Endgame, not so much.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


It's an interesting perspective, since most of my approach to theater (anymore, these days) is as literature rather than as performance. My relationship with Godot or Endgame is with the text first, and so I approach any performance of the play as an interpretation, rather than as text itself. The "Oh no, not Godot" reaction is odd to me in that sense; although, I have to admit that I'm familiar with the "Oh no, not [insert title of classic here]" as a somewhat typical reaction from high school students, and it was often my own reaction at that point.

Random Reactions:

Well, at least they chose an accessible Beckett . . .

What will the Pickard and Gandalf fans think?

So will Lucky and Pozzo be played by Brent Spiner and Elijah Wood?

I wish I could get to New York for this one . . . .

Lucky and Pozzo would, I imagine, be played by Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn.

And I think the oh no, not Godot reaction from my friends was the result of bad memories of actually seeing (or possibly being in or working tech for) productions in the past, rather to the Important Play title. Because I have theater nerd friends! Hurrah!


I see a lot of theater, and I enjoy most of it, from big Broadway productions to tiny community theater shows. I loved Ian McKellen in Dance of Death, and Patrick Stewart in Macbeth, and in Antony and Cleopatra, and in The Tempest (two very different productions many years apart). I would love to see them together in something I could actually enjoy, but Godot isn't it. My reaction of "Oh, no, not Godot" is because the production of Godot that Lisa and I saw a few years ago seemed like a perfectly competent production and is one of the few shows that we hated so much we discussed abandoning it at intermission.

I didn't feel I was being ripped off or made fun of. And since MoMA was one of my destinations of choice as a kid, I think I've had some exposure to non-representational art as well. In painting, photography, and sculpture, I actually find that I cut non-representational a lot more slack than representational.

In general, I think the depiction of people who don't like [insert type of art] as bumpkins or rubes is overly convenient for artists who would prefer to think their work is misunderstood rather than disliked.

As for the high school comment, I'm pretty sure I would have liked Godot better in high school. Isn't that why they teach it there?

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