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Theatre Topics 7.2 (1997) 103-116

Acting "at the nerve ends": Beckett, Blau, and the Necessary

Phillip B. Zarrilli

Thought of everything? . . .Forgotten nothing?. . .

--Samuel Beckett, Eh Joe

As we well know, it's the simple that complicates.

--Herbert Blau, Take Up the Bodies

As Herbert Blau describes them, both the process of acting and the works of Samuel Beckett "stink most of mortality" (Take Up 83). The "stink of mortality" in performing Beckett's plays derives both from their contrapuntal turns of thought, and in the excruciatingly difficult process of embodiment required of the actor. One way of describing these demands is that the actor's bodymind is precariously counterpoised and counterbalanced "on the edge of a breath" (Blau, Take Up 86). Acting Beckett highlights those moments of necessary "suspension" always present in acting, as the actor rides the breath/thought/action--that moment where the possibility of failure is palpable. It is in that moment of possible failure that perceiving consciousness (or "action") bodies forth because it "must." Beckett and Blau require of the actor an unremitting attention to engaging "the necessary"--the "consciousness that it must be seen, what would make the word come even if there were no breath" (Blau, Take Up 86).

This essay focuses on the "stink of mortality" required of actors performing the plays of Beckett, and why and how I require graduate and undergraduate student actors to work on the plays of Beckett in order to encounter this "necessary." As Director of the Asian/Experimental Theatre Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, each year I take a group of graduate MFA and undergraduate BA acting students through a year-long process of psychophysiological training. As I have explained in detail elsewhere (Acting (Re)Considered; Asian Martial Arts), the students undergo intensive daily training in martial and related arts which (ideally) attune their bodyminds to an intuitive ability to "stand still while not standing still." They apply this awareness to improvisatory movement and sensory exercises, and eventually to Beckett's Act Without Words I. Each year's work culminates in a full production project performed for the public. [End Page 103]

IMAGE LINK=Figure 1. In 1994-95, the year-long project began with our daily psychophysiological training focusing on the breath and "internal action," which laid the foundation for a month-long residency by noted actress Billie Whitelaw, who took students through her "journey with Samuel Beckett." 1 Whitelaw's workshop reinforced an approach to Beckett based on formulating metaphors of action that give the actor a map of the psychophysiological territory they enter when performing certain Beckett plays. The project culminated in a five-week intensive period of rehearsals and performances of eight shorter Beckett plays, performed in two separate programs in four locations within the same building (the Hemsley Theatre--Act Without Words I (see fig. 1), Rough for Radio I, Footfalls, and What Where; a fully-equipped television studio--Eh Joe; the theatre scene shop--Play; and a classroom transformed into a white, cloth environment--Ohio Impromptu and Come and Go). The project involved thirteen graduate and undergraduate actors, four student designers, and four MA/PhD students, each of whom directed one play, while I directed three (Act Without Words I as an ensemble choreography, Eh Joe, and Ohio Impromptu). Comments by actors on the process of working on Beckett included in this essay were written as part of their culminating reflections on their acting process through the martial/meditation arts and Beckett. [End Page 104]

Foundations for "the Necessary"

Discovering what is "necessary" in the performative moment is not a decision of the mind, but one of learning how to embody a sedimented decisiveness in space, through time. One path toward that process is working with a discovery of the bodymind's relationship to breath through the Asian martial arts--a path common to both Blau, in work with his company KRAKEN, and A.C. Scott, the founder of the Asian/Experimental Program. Both used T'ai Chi Ch'uan as a foundation discipline. Scott described the state of embodied actualization achieved through the practice of T'ai Chi as the ability to "stand still while not standing still" (qtd. in Zarrilli, Asian Martial Arts). Blau explained why he and his actors practiced T'ai Chi Ch'uan in Take Up the Bodies:

For the actor, it is helpful in dealing with the insoluble dilemma: action or motive, being or becoming, inner or outer--which comes first? the doing or the conceiving? What is the connection between the source of energy and the theatrical use you make of it? . . . Almost before thought, done. The gestures are impossible unless you have the vision, the vision is impossible unless you do the gestures. Insufficient to begin with, they materialize each other. The form is the actualization. (122-123)

Training through the Asian martial arts is not simply a form of physical training of the body, but a training toward an alternative bodymind consciousness and awareness accomplished through attentiveness to the breath, and to focus/concentration in and through the breath.

Thus, now, doing nothing but breathing (and taking time, take time): You are living in your breathing. Stop. Think. You are dying in your breathing. Stop. Think. You are living in your breathing. You are dying in your breathing. You are living in your dying, dying in your living. (Take time, breathing.) Stop. Show. The doing without the showing is merely experience. The showing is critical, what makes it theater. What makes it show (by nothing but breathing) is the radiance of inner conviction. (Blau, Take Up 86)

Attention to the breath in the body, and the bodymind in the breath eventually can lead the practitioner to an intuitive awareness of "thought" as it takes shape in action--a process Artaud described as the development of an "affective musculature which corresponds to the physical localization of feelings" (Cole and Chinoy 239). It is an acting "through the capillaries" or, as Blau calls it, "at the nerve ends."

A Space Between: Acting the Indeterminate but Necessary Unsaid

If T'ai Chi Ch'uan and other martial arts training can take one to the "edge of a breath" where thought takes shape as action--a place where one "stands still while not standing still," Beckett's plays take the actor to this same place "between" where, many critics agree, meanings, associations, and experiences [End Page 105] are left "open" for the audience. Lao Tsu calls this "the space between heaven and earth."

What Beckett's plays demand of the actor is not the creation of "characters" but an actualization of "thought" as perceiving consciousness in action as it happens. Beckett makes special demands on the actor--an attentiveness to an "indeterminate" necessary--actions and words whose meanings cannot be foreclosed. Jonathan Kalb argues that a poetics of Beckett performance should follow the simple standard that "ambiguity [is]. . . a positive performance value" (38). This ambiguity is part of the structure and content of Beckett's plays, of their "musicality" where there is no realist progression to a necessary conclusion. Discussing the indeterminacy of Beckett, Blau cites the example of Footfalls:

What I was always moved by in Beckett . . . was a certain manic fitfulness of mind, as in the iterations of Footfalls: 'it all, it all.' Where you could virtually bite your tongue over the painful indeterminacy of that (w)hole in it. It all, it all. What's the referent? (Directing 59)

Actors, of course, cannot "act" ambiguity, but they can locate, define, embody, and enact a precise set of physical actions for which there is no conclusive, single referent. Simplifying and cutting away all that is extraneous to the moment is precisely the acting "problem" that immediately confronts the actor playing Beckett. For students primarily trained in an American, Stanislavskian-based realist approach to character acting, it is extraordinarily difficult to "let go" of the seeming necessity of reaching conclusions about the subtext of each action so that it is played motivationally. 2 In order to produce an effect in performance, playing Beckett requires the actor to "let go" of one's "confidence" in realist textual analysis and to concentrate on developing a specific, simple score. The actor must find an alternative definition of and approach to "action," which, while specific, decided, and "sedimented" in the bodymind is neither a psychological nor emotional conclusion.

This act of "letting go" of the psychological is often experienced by the student actor as disorienting. For those expecting the familiar answers of psychological realism, the uncertainty of this location "between" can be very uncomfortable. Beckett's inherent interpretive indeterminacy can produce in the actor a palpable "terror" as the actor faces this "unknown" present in the performative moment. For the actor who gives herself permission to create as simple a score as possible and to enter this "terror of the present" required when performing Beckett, the experience of simplification can eventually help the actor experience "the cleansing action of a true craft," which is "an attitude of reverence toward the moment, letting it happen rather than making it happen . . . relinquishing oneself, getting out of the way" (Blau, Take Up 123-124).

Acting Beckett one encounters philosophy and metaphysics--not in the head but through the perceptual body. Space and time open out, often for the [End Page 106] first time, devoid of the comfortable familiarity of props, scenery, and dialogue that make obvious "sense." The encounter is full of the "unsaid," not in a psychological, but metaphysical sense. Into Beckett's spaces, each step, gesture, word, or phrase must be taken on its own terms. There are no "characters" to fall back on, no "habits" or "twitches" or "gimmicks" on which one can rely.

"[P]recision is next to godliness in Beckett." (Blau, Directing 56)

A series of stage directions--"The man is flung backwards on stage from right wing. He falls, gets up immediately, dusts himself, turns aside, reflects . . ."(43)--Act Without Words I requires the actor to face a precision of embodied form where each action must be completed fully and played "in the moment" before the next action is undertaken. Facing the task of acting in Play, Jeff Morrison noted how

focus was placed on minutiae of detail so small that they became laughable when considered after performance . . . [but whose] precision . . . was the entire point. That kind of precision . . . necessitates . . . focus--internal focus on one's own body simultaneously with external focus on an exterior point to make sure that what's inside is getting out . . . [as well as] the requirement to 'not be there,' to get out of the way and let the piece do the work.

Between each precise action prompted by the glaring light in his face (or, in Act Without Words I, between "falls . . . gets up . . . dusts . . . turns aside, reflects") is "the edge of the breath" where the actor is perched precariously as the perceiving consciousness itself, attentively looking, wondering, perceiving, and responding to what is happening as it is happening. Each action must be discovered and played clearly and fully as it becomes necessary, without a hint of either anticipation of what comes next, or an "overdetermination" of the "meaning." Acting Beckett means acting specifically, but without conclusions.

With the focus entirely on embodiment and with no "words" to hide behind, rehearsing Act Without Words I allows actors to clearly see when other actors make the common mistakes of reaching a psychological conclusion, anticipating the "next," or taking a shortcut which blurs precision of a timing that happens as it must happen when it must occur. Acting Beckett is similar to the kind of focus, concentration, and attentiveness to the moment of doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan where, gradually, actors are able intuitively to feel and understand those moments when they themselves anticipate or overdetermine the "what comes next."

Actors are forced over and again to return to what is "necessary" each and every time they return to the performative moment. The repetition in both Beckett and in "form" training cumulatively leads to sedimentation where, as Blau explains, "the forms are a repository of learning, an accretion, a body of [End Page 107] lore and a lore of the body in its motions . . . The separate but inseparable figures are elusive and inexhaustible" (Take Up 123). Peder Melhuse commented how our work on Act Without Words I led him to a new experience of playing each action:

I was free to spend my energy and attention on my relationship to movement instead of some psychologically motivated cause and effect. I found, too, that playing with the borders of ambiguity was empowering. If I almost reacted with 'color' I would play on that borderline that Beckett seems to inhabit. . . [These experiences] taught me to explore the borders of purgatory and all the meanings of that word. It taught me to do nothing until compelled to.

IMAGE LINK=Figure 2. Karole Spangler (see fig. 2) noted the unrelenting nature of the requirement that her performance of the Voice in Eh Joe be "in the present":

If I slipped off-track . . . [it was] invariably traced to moments when I tried to work from the head . . . manufacturing an effect, attempting to re-create something that worked in a previous rehearsal.

Like other actors, part of the difficulty for Spangler was "adding nothing" since

the actor's psyche rebels. We exist, after all, as glorified interpreters--he who can invest the most of himself in a role and not lose touch with reality wins! Beckett wants investment, too. He wants more, but he wants it 'pure.' All past experience, all pain, all joy, with no opinion added . . . Beckett writes excruciating, concentrated stuff--plays full of the mind and body in agony. He lacks consideration for human limitation.

As the actor learns to play actions "when compelled to," the actor is gradually learning to give up overt and self-conscious control of the acting score. Many actors and critics alike have commented on the "musicality" required when playing Beckett's texts (Blau, Directing 57). The sequencing of [End Page 108] actions in Act Without Words I is a physically musical score which the actor plays with his bodymind; the rhythmic patterns between the completion of one action and the next must be played intuitively.

Maria DePalma who played May in our production of Footfalls, noted how Whitelaw convinced her that approaching Beckett with "no color" forced her to give "more depth and ambiguity to Beckett's texts and left more open to interpretation for the audience" so that, "for the first time in my life," she approached a performance without trying

to understand it at all. My objective was to say the words as slowly as I could with particular attention to each vowel sound . . . and find the musicality of the text . . . a musical score that you can hear if you just pay attention to the words. Instead of playing with interpretation, I played with pitch and speed using the words to guide me.

As in practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan, experiencing the musicality of these spaces between actions is how one gradually experiences a "mastery of time"--the necessary "secret of any craft" (Blau, Take Up 83). Peder Melhuse found working on Beckett led him to discover the "beauty in rhythm and sound and movement," and ultimately to "a much more open mind" about how to approach acting.

In the Stillness Behind the Form

The demand that the actor "stand still while not standing still" is almost ubiquitous in Beckett's plays. Stanton Garner describes how Beckett subordinates "movement to position, circumscribing motion within the bounds of invariant location" (72). This tendency toward stasis in a location requires, as Gay Gibson Cima asserts, acting that, like the Japanese no theatre, takes account of "blank space":

Acting in Beckett, like acting in no, may be "a matter of doing just enough to create the ma that is a blank space-time where nothing is done, and that ma is the core of the expression, where the true interest lies." (200)

Both require little overt action that is externally visible; however, behind that apparent "inaction" is the blazing "flame" of an active, inner, vibratory perceptivity. Cima explains Zeami's views in the Kakyo:

"[N]o matter how slight a bodily action, if the motion is more restrained than the emotion behind it, the emotion will become the substance and the movements of the body its function, thus moving the audience." A standard rule of acting, this dictum is carried to its extreme in no and in Beckett, until in fact "the times of action in Noh [and in Beckett] exist for the sake of the times of stillness." May rarely walks and talks simultaneously, for example, and her unwilling pacing serves in large part to highlight her parallel desire to stop "revolving it all," her wish to remain still. (199-200) [End Page 109]

IMAGE LINK=Figure 3. Locked in their urns, the three actors in Play only engage in slight turns of their heads. In Not I, the actress is virtually immobilized except for her moving mouth. In Eh Joe, after Joe's initial examination of his room, once the Voice starts "in on him," Joe remains seated on the edge of his bed--his only overt movements a slight lowering of his head and the release of his otherwise unblinding eyelids in the gaps between her speaking (see fig. 3).

When the actor's body is rendered virtually immovable in playing many of these Beckett roles, the requirement that an "inner necessity" of action be embodied quickly becomes apparent to the actor. Blau describes the acting required in Beckett's plays as

realism in extremis. Which is to say that the realistic vision, its methodology, is taken about as far inside as it can go, interiorized so intensely that it seems to occur at the nerve ends. (Directing 53)

Jeff Morrison described his experience of this "doubled up interiority," of acting at the nerve's end when performing Play: [End Page 110]

There has to be a score of energy, a seething something underneath, that drives an apparently immobile exterior and makes it compelling. The dilation of presence in a still body has to be enormous, because you don't have the advantage of movement to catch an audience's attention. That dilation comes through strong focus in a number of directions . . . internal focus on the body, full awareness of every part of oneself; full awareness of the external world . . . full awareness of the score and complete internalization of the score so that no energy need be wasted on keeping one's place . . . and also an awareness of the quality of focus, some intuitive action that permits a mutable relationship between these other areas of focus.
I managed to deal with all of these different points of focus by unifying them in my body and connecting them to the light. Conceptually, there was a continuous stream of energy that began at my feet and went straight up out my mouth and all the way over to the light . . . I was not moving. I was completely still, except for some head turns, but I would be drenched with sweat at the end of each performance and by the second week, my entire body would shake with the effort of delivering each line. I was exerting maximum effort for maximum effect, but the outward manifestation of that effect was really quite minimal.

Toward Interiority in Beckett's Eh Joe: Acting with "No Color"

How does one approach creating an experience for the audience of this "doubled up interiority"? For our production of Eh Joe, we performed the play as a live performance piece in a television studio, complete with three cameras, television directors, and working crew. Each production was in essence a "live broadcast" of the television play. This choice was designed to create additional layers of "interiority" to the Voice's habitation of Joe and to create an experience where this "interiority" of the voice inhabiting Joe might also inhabit the audience's consciousness.

As the audience entered, Joe was already seated on the bed in an "intent pose." As soon as the audience was seated, the soundproof rolling door of the television studio was rolled shut with a loud bang--an act that literally makes one aware of the studio's complete silence. After the house lights faded, the theatrical lights came up, focusing on the set and, more specifically, on Joe. Following the television script precisely, he slowly and methodically executed each of the initial five sets of movements in the script:

1. . . . getting up, going to window, opening window, looking out, closing window, drawing curtain, standing intent.
2. . . . going from window to door, opening door, looking out, closing door, locking door, drawing hanging before door, standing intent.
3. . . . going from door to cupboard, opening cupboard, looking in, closing cupboard, locking cupboard, drawing hanging before cupboard, standing intent. [End Page 111]
4. . . . going from cupboard to bed, kneeling down looking under bed, getting up, sitting down on edge of bed as when discovered, beginning to relax.
5. Joe seen from front sitting on edge of bed, relaxed, eyes closed. Hold, then dolly slowly in to closeup of face. First word of text stops this movement. (201)

The Woman's Voice, played by Karole Spangler, was perched just above the television set. Shrouded in the same purple-grey dyed muslin cloth which defined the set and covered the door, window, and cupboard, Spangler was barely visible, if visible at all, to the audience until she spoke her first line. The Voice is the "probe" which, like the light in Play or the literal probe in Act Without Words II, activates what comes next throughout the play. In our production, as the Woman's (miked) Voice spoke the first word of the text, "Joe . . . ," not only did it activate Joe to open his eyes and "resume intentness," it simultaneously activated the three cameras and the four monitors built into the set, making the Voice's habitation of Joe and the audience literally visible. This "intrusion" of the miked voice into the studio's silence and into the monitors often shocked the audience, since at least some of them were not aware of the Voice's presence until Spangler spoke.

During the Voice's moments of pause, Joe would divert his gaze momentarily from intent listening, and the cameras would dolly a few steps closer, bringing Joe's head, face, and intent expression even "closer" to the audience as the backdrop against which they saw him sitting . . . still. As Garner points out, the reduction of movement and mobility actually "provides the theatrical image with focal points of movement and gesture" (72). In our production of Eh Joe, Joe's stasis, and the increasingly lengthy periods during which the Voice speaks and he remains unblinking and "impassive except in so far as it reflects mounting tension of listening," meant that there was an extraordinarily heightened focus for the audience on what Garner calls "the visual weight of activity, making gesture and movement dramas in their own right" (72). Here Joe's "activity" was reduced to listening while not blinking, an extraordinary demand for physical restraint placed on the actor. "The diminishment of actual movement . . . has been accompanied by a liberation of immanent . . . movement, in a performance field at once barely mobile and profoundly restless" (Garner 79). The "activity lodged in stillness" is Joe's act of listening and that act of attempting to "squeeze" the Voice away: "That's right, Joe, squeeze away . . . " (205).

By setting the production live within the television studio, the cool distance of a televised version of the play was replaced by the disclosure of Joe's "living body" as a human presence--"what Malloy calls 'that unstable fugitive thing, still living flesh'" (Garner 80). Joe, reduced to nonmovement except for the acts of listening and squeezing, never speaks. The Voice in the television version is body reduced to literal absence. In our production, the actress playing the Voice was physically present, but reduced to nonmovement. By performing Eh Joe as a live performance piece, both Joe as the site of torment/suffering and [End Page 112] the tormenting Voice were physically present, living this "condition of fixity . . . in the breathing and trembling that makes theatrical stillness an impossibility" (Garner 81).

These overtly theatrical yet material spatial and visual juxtapositions reinforced the interiority of the piece. The Korper or "thing-body" was visually a constant presence in the televised Joe and was constantly juxtaposed against the Leib or "body-alive-to-itself" of the actor playing Joe, whose presence in his body-alive was most visible from the sweat on his brow and tears forming in his unblinking eyes--writ large as the play progressed with the camera images projecting the ever closer, more and more intimate details of Joe's intently listening face. This tension between Korper and Leib was reinforced as well by the "live" presence of the camera crews going silently about their business of televising Joe "live," and the television's "thing-like" recording of what was being seen; by the Voice's "live" presence but "thing-like" projection over the studio's speakers from the actress's miked-voice; and by the ever-present silence of the soundproof studio itself, of the "live" television set within the studio, its thing-like placement within the studio, and its visible thing-ness in the television images being recorded.

How does one approach performing this "interiority" demanded by Beckett? Whitelaw emphasized over and again in her workshops with our actors the difference between playing "character roles" and acting the Beckett roles she played with "no color." 3 Whitelaw explained how she concentrated her attention on timing, rhythm, and the musicality of texts, as well as creating an active metaphor for a role so that she could play the role with "no color." She also explained how she delivered her lines as a form of "Chinese water torture" so that each phrase of the text was delivered as a drop of water literally dripped into Joe's head. Following Whitelaw's suggestion, Melhuse played Joe by playing "the action of squeezing the voice to death with my brain." Forced to remain seated through most of the thirty-minute performance while listening to the Voice and not blinking, Melhuse concentrated all his focus and energy on his lower lids to keep them from blinking. This approach to playing Beckett engages the actor in psychophysiological action(s) concentrated in the breath and focus (both external and internal) which is fundamentally nonrepresentational, and which Melhuse (speaking for all the actors) found "exhausting physically and emotionally."

The tension between Korper and Leib was especially profound during the culminating moments of the performance when the

[Voice drops to whisper, almost inaudible except words in italics.]
All right . . . You've had the best . . . Now imagine . . . Before she goes . . . Imagine . . . Face in the cup . . . Lips on a stone . . . a stone . . . . (206) 4

As Joe's sweating face, intently unblinking, "squeezing away," fills the monitors, the Voice mouths words whose consonants click and clatter, but which [End Page 113] cannot be fully heard, except as words force their way into consciousness above the hush--

. . . imagine. . . .imagine. . . .stone. . . .a stone. . . .Joe Joe. . . .stones. . . .stones. . . .lips. . . .lips. . . .imagine. . . .imagine. . . .solitaire. . . .stone. . . .stone. . . eyes. . . .the eyes. . . .breasts. . . .hands. . . .imagine. . . .imagine. . . .stones. . . . stones. . . .(206)

As Beckett requested in his stage directions, in the midst of this near-silent incantational materialization of the (immaterial) Woman's body (is it, was it, present?), his image now begins to "fade" as the Voice continues its only occasionally audible recitation:

What are they fondling?. . . Till they go. . . .There's love for you. . . .Isn't it, Joe? . . . Wasn't it, Joe?. . . Eh Joe?. . . Wouldn't you say?. . . Compared to us. . . .Compared to Him. . . .Eh Joe?. . . . (207)

On her final word, the monitors click out into blankness, the Voice stops, and Joe, with his "stinking mortality," remains visible before us sitting in the silence as the theatrical lights gradually close to complete blackness.

Engaging the performance of Eh Joe from her perch above the studio, Spangler made the following observations about Beckett and the experience of Eh Joe:

Beckett extracted pictures from his mind, along with their companion emotions, and placed them onstage . . . [so that] audiences respond in primal, almost unvoiceable ways. Every night of Eh Joe when the lights and monitors went out and the Voice stopped for the last time, the silence continued for what seemed to me a long time, then was broken by one person, then another, and then everyone, letting out the breath they'd been holding for who knows how long. None of them I talked to later could say, as none of them could remember, when they stopped breathing. 5

Why Beckett?

Each of the actors involved in this year-long process began to discover that there is a "necessary" to be found in acting Beckett which cannot be predetermined but must be discovered anew in each performance as the necessary becomes evident. Beckett demands this of the actors who engage his plays. Blau understood this of Beckett and of the acting process. It remains for those whose work is acting pedagogy and process to instill this attitude of open inquiry, of embodied suspension, of riding the breath, in our students. What can result is the "stink of mortality" that is not just sweat of muscles working very hard to achieve "tone," but the sweat of the "heart"--Artaud's athlete as read through Blau's unremitting demand for "a deeper reverence of the mind's passion" (Drama Review 22)--the only athlete capable of beginning to find what is necessary in Beckett. 6 [End Page 114]

Throughout the rehearsal and performances of Play, my experiences ranged from elation to sheer terror to claustrophobia to utterly inexplainable emptiness . . . The terror I felt while in the urn was virtually all-consuming. One night I wanted to get out so bad I thought I would have to scream and stop the show, but somehow I just kept going: I opened my mouth and the right words poured out. Every night I lived in fear of forgetting my lines, and I dropped sweat as the light was on Karen or Jeff, paralyzed with panic.

Jenny Kaminer

Phillip B. Zarrilli is Professor of Theatre and Drama, South Asian Studies, and Folklore, and Director of the Asian-Experimental Theatre Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


1. See Whitelaw's recent (and quite marvelous) memoir for a discussion of her work with Beckett and her workshops with student actors (1995). Professor Karen Ryker organized Whitelaw's visit, and both she and Professor Patricia Boyette were instrumental in reinforcing the approach to acting/vocalizing Beckett reflected here.

2. Jonathan Kalb quotes Michael Goldman's analysis of subtext:

It is the combination of subtexts, then, that produces the effect, with one important proviso: that no subject be treated as privileged. This is in sharp contrast to the standard convention of modern subtexts before Beckett, in which the subtext is understood to represent the authentic score of the text . . . [O]ur engagement with the actors, though it can be intense, must not be confidently located. We must not be allowed to feel, "Yes, I can get behind these appearances." (38)

3. See also the sections of Whitelaw devoted to acting Beckett.

4. This is a quotation from Whitelaw's copy of the published script with additions made by Beckett.

5. Spangler's observation suggests that, at least among those audience members most affected by the performance, that they, too, engaged the performance through their "breath." This is a provocative observation that should be pursued further in audience reception research. Reception of Beckett's plays would be a most interesting place to begin such research.

6. The full citation is worth repeating:

For all the justifiable devotion to love's body, we still need a deeper reverence of the mind's passion. ("Training! Training! Training!" cried Meyerhold. "But if it's the kind of training which exercises only the body and not the mind, then no thank you! I have no use for actors who know how to move but can't think.") If it becomes easier for actors, or performers, or shamans, to be possessed, it becomes harder for them to be intelligent--and, especially intelligent in the act of performance . . . The critical faculty, for all the dissidence, has been abused. All things waste from want of use. "Use your head, can't you, use your head," raged Hamm, "you're on earth, there's no cure for that." (Drama Review 22-23)

Works Cited

Artaud, Antonin. "Athlete of the Heart." Actors on Acting. Eds. Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chinoy. New York: Crown Publishing, 1970. 235-240.

Beckett, Samuel. Collected Shorter Plays. New York: Grove, 1984.

Blau, Herbert. "Seeming, Seeming: The Disappearing Act." Drama Review 20.4 (1976): 7-24.

--. Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1982.

--. "Herbert Blau." Directing Beckett. Ed. Lois Oppenheim. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1994.

Cima, Gay Gibson. Performing Women: Female Characters, Male Playwrights, and the Modern Stage. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993.

Garner, Stanton B. Bodied Spaces: Phenomenology and Performance in Contemporary Drama. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994.

Kalb, Jonathan. Beckett in Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

Whitelaw, Billie. Billie Whitelaw . . . Who He? New York: St. Martin's P, 1995.

Zarrilli, Phillip. ". . . on the edge of a breath, looking." Acting (Re)Considered: Theories and Practices. Ed. Phillip B. Zarrilli. London: Routledge, 1995. 177-196.

--, ed. Asian Martial Arts in Actor Training. Madison: Center for South Asia, U of Wisconsin-Madison P, 1993.



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