Spiritual Sustenance and Theater

Robin Williams, Steve Martin (Waiting for Godot)

 

by Carol Rocamora

 

For those of us who love – and live for – the theater, these are unthinkable times.  With Broadway and off-Broadway theatres dark, where is our soul?  Where is our spiritual sustenance?

Like all our writers and readers here at Theater Pizzazz, we are blessed to have had the opportunity to see many memorable performances throughout the 2019-2020 season that have enriched our lives.

But when I think back on what has moved me most this year, interestingly, I’m struck by a moment that occurred just 48 hours before Governor Cuomo made his fateful announcement on Thursday.  It was a moment of theatre – but it didn’t occur in a theatre.

Rather, it happened this past Tuesday in the Theater on Film & Tape Archive of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.  I’d taken my students from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to see a tape of a live performance of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece, Waiting for Godot, directed by Mike Nichols.  It was taped at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater in 1988, and yet it was as fresh and timeless as if it had been performed yesterday.

My students had the privilege of watching Steve Martin (Didi) and Robin Williams (Gogo), complemented by F. Murray Abraham (Pozzo) and Bill Irwin (Lucky), give some of the finest performances of their careers.  Moreover, because of the intimacy of that 200-seat space, the camera and audio could capture the audience response – their laughter and their hushed awe – while watching perhaps the greatest play of the 20th century.

My students had arrived at Lincoln Center, dazed.  Their trip uptown had been quite unsettling.  Reeling from the news of the escalating coronavirus crisis, they were anxious about the subway ride, compounded by urgent messages from their parents to leave the city as soon as possible.  Indeed, NYU had just announced that this would be the last day of “live” classes before NYU converted to on-line education.  And yet they came, grateful for the opportunity to be together and watch the work.

Listening to those memorable lines from Beckett about two tramps on a roadside, waiting, helplessly, hopefully, for salvation, I heard audible gasps and sighs of recognition.  “We are waiting for Godot to come, or night to fall,” says Didi.  “We have kept our appointment.”

So did they.  So will we all – we who celebrate life and community and the arts– pray to survive, endure, and hope for renewed life, health, and another evening at the theatre.

 

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