WAITING FOR GODOT IN NEW ORLEANS
Cast: Wendell Pierce, J Kyle Manzay, T. Ryder Smith, Mark McLaughlin, Michael Pepp and Tony Felix
Named one of the ten best national art events of 2007 by The New York Times
In November 2007, Christopher McElroen partnered with renowned visual artist Paul Chan and New York public arts organization Creative Time to reach out into the New Orleans community to stage free site specific performances of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in the Katrina-devastated neighborhoods of Gentilly and Lower Ninth Ward.
The Times-Picayune, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Nation, Artforum and NPR all followed the story of Godot in New Orleans, calling the project “incisive,” “inspired,” “remarkable,” “exemplary,” “ever-inventive” and “multifaceted … various in form and meaning, communal, physically ephemeral yet socially and politically continuing.”
Wendell Pierce (HBO’s The Wire), a New Orleans native who played Vladimir in WAITING FOR GODOT, said in an interview with the Times-Picayune on November 10, 2007:
This experience has been the most exciting of my life. This was the best of New Orleans, the humanity of New Orleans, all kinds of people coming together as one: Ninth Ward residents, people who may never have been to the Ninth Ward and everyone in between. New Orleans was one, unified in spirit. And I haven’t seen or felt that in a long, long time. For me, there were times when it wasn’t a play, when it was so beyond the play… And theater did this! That’s what art is all about. Art is to the individual what thoughts are to the community.
A letter to the local paper from a man whose 80-year old mother survived Katrina represents the incredible impact this project had on the community of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast:
Friday morning at 7 a.m., my 14-year-old son, wife and mother will start the roughly 560-mile drive from Nashville, Tenn., to...see a corner lot staging of “Waiting for Godot”…I want [my son] to see how a neutral ground stage can become a place of social and political comment and a play can be a call to action. I want my son to see theater that touches lives and does more than just entertain. So, we're driving nine hours, lawn chairs in the trunk, to see art.
“Christopher McElroen's staging is the most accessible, the funniest, the most moving and meaningful "Godot" we are ever likely to see... This is stimulating, adventurous, theater of the first order in which we see ourselves in the mirror of a great play.” Times Picayune
“An unforgettable night of theater.” ArtForum
“The performances are capturing the zeitgeist of a city waiting impatiently for Katrina's aftershocks to subside. So many people showed up for Friday's opening night performance, even those who'd never heard of Beckett before, that hundreds were turned away because seating was limited to 500. Some arrived with babies in their arms, others still in their blue work coveralls, others from the wealthiest parts of town.” Associated Press
“A mirror to those New Orleans natives who may or may not have given up on Godot by now, as they wait for the return of their faith.” The New Yorker
Links to articles about WAITING FOR GODOT in New Orleans
National Public Radio, December 3, 2007
Still Waiting on Repairs, New Orleans Hosts "Godot'"
Times Picayune, November 2, 2007
For New Orleanians "Godot" Hits the Spot
The New Yorker, November 26, 2007
The New York Times December 2, 2007
A Broken City. A Tree. Evening.
The New York Times, December 23, 2007
The Nation, December 31, 2007
Waiting for Godot in a Wasteland
Complete production information and photos.
Statement from Artist Paul Chan
Citizens recount their experience.
Focus on public art.
The Times Picayune
Individual account of experience.
Op-Ed about the crowd while they waited, reactions to the show.
From conception to local interaction.
Workshop with the Anthony Bean Players
Focus on New Orleans and actor Wendell Pierce.
On the relevance of Beckett’s script- sighting all the significant productions (Sarajevo, San Quentin, Etc)
Uses the production to discuss the state of things in New Orleans
Account of the Lower 9th event, with critical review of CT, CTH and Chan.
Process, community interaction and workshops.
Anne Pasternak on public art.
Critical essay on “Godot”, short review of performance.
Paul Chan speaks at Harvard.
Pulling quotes from various articles- critiques the impact.
Description of event attended by audience member.
The Data Stream
Description of project from press materials.
Writers assessment of the power of the event. (from reading in ArchRecord)
Writer deeply moved by setting Godot in the setting.
Reviewer examines the Christian impact of the interpretation