KRAPP’S LAST TAPE
by Samuel Beckett
Direction, Staging, and Lighting Concept Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson as Krapp
Costumes and Associate Set Design Yashi Tabassomi
Lighting Design A. J. Weissbard
Sound Design Peter Cerone and Jesse Ash
Associate Director and Stage Manager Sue Jane Stoker
Associate Director Charles Chemin
Lighting Associate Xavier Baron
Technical Director Amerigo Varesi
Head Electrician Aliberto Sagretti
Production Manager Kristine Grazioli
A Change Performing Arts Project
Spoleto52 Festival dei 2 Mondi
Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg
produced by CRT Artificio (Milan)
Krapp’s Last Tape, a one-act play by Samuel Beckett, premiered on October 28, 1958 at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
Krapp, an elderly man, is seated alone in his room in the middle of the night. It is his seventieth birthday. He is setting up an old reel-to-reel tape machine in order to begin to record his observations regarding the year he has just completed, the way he has done every year on his birthday since he was a young man. The events recorded on each tape are then meticulously entered into an enormous ledger, which provides Krapp with ready access to his memories. As he prepares to make the new recording, he listens to a tape from some thirty years before. What he hears is the voice of a man who is confident and full of hope, a man in the prime of life, and Krapp can barely recognize him. As he listens to his former ambitions and his young man’s dreams, Krapp’s laughter is marked with bitterness.
There is one section of the tape that Krapp listens to repeatedly: There, the young Krapp speaks calmly and philosophically about the end of his relationship with a woman whose name may have been Effi. At the time he made the tape, the young Krapp viewed their breakup as inevitable and was already imagining new conquests and triumphs. Now, as he looks back, he realizes that Effi was his last great love and that, in letting her go so many years before, he also renounced any chance at happiness.
Robert Wilson, in addition to being responsible for the direction and staging, stars in the performance.
This is Wilson’s first appearance as an actor since his Hamlet: A Monologue.
Wilson’s work in Krapp’s Last Tape provides a unique opportunity to appreciate his skill as a theatrical interpreter. Wilson’s characteristic style precisely and rigorously combines movement, lighting, and sound and, in that framework, creates a structure that allows the audience plenty of room for interpretation. These are the elements that make Wilson’s live performances so exciting.
Wilson has often been compared to Beckett as another master of “naked simplicity,” one of the most difficult results for an artist to achieve. In their work, nothing is inessential: not one word, not a single gesture.
In the brief span of an hour’s time and using only a few brushstrokes, Beckett and Wilson paint a world that is extremely specific and yet, at the same time, universal.
(Sue Jane Stoker)
“When I direct a production, what I create is a temporal structure. Only when each of the visual elements is in place is the framework created for the actors to fill.
If that structure is solid, they can move around freely within it.
In this case the structure is provided, in large part, by the text. My task is to find my freedom within Beckett’s structure. He describes in minute detail the staging, the physical movements, and so on.
It’s all written there, in black and white.”
|Samuel Beckett, the Irish writer, dramatist, and director, was born on April 13, 1906 in Dublin and died on December 22, 1989 in Paris. He studied Romance languages and literature at Trinity College in Dublin, earning his B. A. with his thesis, a critical essay on Proust, which was later published. He was awarded a post as English lecturer at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and moved to Paris where he met and assisted James Joyce. He frequented Surrealist circles and published a few novels, including Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (1951), and The Unnamable (1953). Martin Esslin considered Beckett, along with Eugène Ionesco and Arthur Adamov, to be among the prime exponents of the Theater of the Absurd. In 1952, he wrote Waiting for Godot (first written in French and then translated by Beckett into English) which was presented on stage for the first time on January 5, 1953 in Paris at the Théâtre de Babylone. Subsequently he wrote Endgame (1957) and Happy Days (1960). In 1963, he wrote the screenplay for Film (released in 1965) starring Buster Keaton. For German television, he wrote and directed five plays of remarkable visual impact and notable for their experimentation with language and directorial imagination—of note Quad (1981) and Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams) (1982). In 1969, he won the Nobel Prize for literature, which, however, he did not turn up to collect. |
Robert Wilson was defined by the New York Times as “a towering figure in the world of experimental theater.” His work employs different artistic techniques masterfully integrating movement, dance, painting, light, design, sculpture, music, and dramatic art. His shows are a tour de force of aesthetic intensity and powerful emotions and have earned him wide critical and public acclaim throughout the world.
He has received many honors and awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowship Awards (1971, 1980), the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Award (1975), a Pulitzer Prize nomination (1986), a Leone d’Oro for sculpture from the Venice Biennale (1993), the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for Lifetime Achievement (1996), il Premio Europa award from Taormina Arte (1997), election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2000), and the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement (2001). In 2002, he was named as Commandeur des arts et des letters by the French Minister of Culture.
Born in Waco, Texas, Wilson studied at the University of Texas and arrived in New York in 1963 to attend Brooklyn´s Pratt Institute. In 1968, he founded his Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds and developed his first signature works. In 1969, Wilson presented two of his great works in New York: The King of Spain at the Anderson Theater and The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud, which made its debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He attained international fame in 1971 with his revolutionary opera Deafman Glance, created in collaboration with Raymond Andrews, a deaf-mute boy whom Wilson legally adopted. Following the opera’s Parisian debut, the surrealist artist Louis Aragon wrote of Wilson: “He is what we, from whom Surrealism was born, dreamed would come after us and go beyond us.” Regarded as a leader in Manhattan´s then-burgeoning avant-garde art scene, Wilson turned his attention to large-scale opera and, with Philip Glass, created the monumental Einstein on the Beach, which achieved world-wide acclaim and altered conventional notions of opera as an artistic form. The work was presented at the Festival d’Avignone and at the Metropolitan in New York and then taken on two world tours in 1984 and 1992. Following Einstein, Wilson worked increasingly with major European theaters and opera houses. In collaboration with internationally renowned writers and performers, Wilson created landmark original works that were featured regularly at the Festival d´Automne in Paris, the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, and the Salzburg Festival. At the Schaubühne he created Death Destruction & Detroit (1979) and Death Destruction & Detroit II (1987); and at the Thalia he presented the groundbreaking musical works The Black Rider (1991) and Alice (1992). In the early 1980s, Wilson developed what was to remain his most ambitious project: the epic CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down. Working in collaboration with a group of international artists, Wilson conceived the work as the central part of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles and though never completed, individual acts were performed in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
Over the last two decades, Wilson has applied his striking formal language as regards light, sense of space, and movement in his traditional and operatic repertoire, conceiving and directing operas at La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan in New York, the Opéra Bastille in Paris, the Zurich Opera, the State Opera in Hamburg, the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and the Houston Grand Opera. To name but a few of the works Wilson has directed: Wagner’s Parsifal (Hamburg, 1991); Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Paris, 1991-99); Wagner’s Lohengrin (Zurich, 1991; New York, 1998); Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Paris, 1993-98; Bologna, 1996; Hamamatsu, 1999; Amsterdam, 2003; Los Angeles, 2004); and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (Salzburg, 1997; Paris 2004). Additionally, he has also brought to the stage innovative adaptations of the works of such writers as Virginia Woolf, Henrik Ibsen, and Gertrude Stein. In the course of his career, Wilson has worked with such artists as Heiner Müller, Tom Waits, William S. Burroughs, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Allen Ginsberg, Laurie Anderson, Jessye Norman, and Susan Sontag.
Wilson recently completed an entirely new production, based on an epic poem from Indonesia entitled I La Galigo, which toured extensively and appeared at the Lincoln Center Festival in the summer of 2005.
Wilson continues to direct revivals of his most celebrated productions, including The Black Rider in London, San Francisco, and Sydney; The Temptation of St. Anthony in New York and Barcelona; Erwartung in Berlin; Madama Butterfly at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow; and Wagner´s Der Ring des Nibelungen at Le Châtelet in Paris.
Beyond being universally recognized and acclaimed for his theatrical pieces, Wilson continues to be tied to the world of contemporary art. Extensive retrospectives have been presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He has mounted installations at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, London´s Clink Street Vaults, and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. His extraordinary tribute to Isamu Noguchi was exhibited recently at the Seattle Art Museum and his installation of the Guggenheim´s Giorgio Armani Retrospective traveled to London, Rome, and Tokyo. In 2007, the Paula Cooper and Phillips de Pury & Co galleries in New York presented his latest artistic venture, VOOM Portraits, that include such personalities as Gao Xingjian, Winona Ryder, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Brad Pitt. The exhibition was then presented at the ACE Gallery in Los Angeles as well as in Naples and Spoleto. His designs, videos, and sculptures are housed in private and museum collections throughout the world. He is represented by the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.
Wilson is also the founder and artistic director of the Watermill Center, which each summer brings together students and experienced professionals from around the globe in a multi-disciplinary environment dedicated to the arts. In July 2006, the Watermill Center erected a new building complete with rehearsal space and residences and inaugurated its one-year study program.