Matthew McFrederick: AHRC Fellowship Recipient

Matthew McFrederick: AHRC Fellowship Recipient

I think it’s fair to say Beckett was a visionary character in the theater. The stage images that he creates are unlike anything else in the theater. In his later plays you get just a mouth lit on the stage, for instance, in Not I. In Play you get three heads in urns. In Godot you get these characters waiting for a character that never comes. What you see is this man breaking the boundaries of what people consider to be normal in the theater. Not only just in 1955 and the early years when it was so groundbreaking, but even today you have young audiences attending Beckett and being captivated by the images and the style of theater that he creates. Performance histories are quite tricky to get a hold of because once a performance takes place it’s gone forever, but when you’re trying to conduct research you need to get as many materials as you can to reconstruct it or have the remains of a performance. So, only through these letters, only through the correspondence, the manuscripts, the photographs of productions, and programs do you actually get a flavor and a sense of what actually happened on the stage. One of the interesting finds that I’ve made in the archive has been certainly the has certainly been to realize how important collaboration was to Beckett in the work. Yes, he was a genius, but this genius needed to come out through other practitioners and other collaborators that he worked with on the London stage. In the Ransom Center you have some fantastic holdings for the English Stage Company. One of the other finds that I had was – you have some of the early versions of Waiting for Godot so I got a bit of archive fever when looking at those because my first direct involvement with Beckett was acting in Waiting for Godot. I played the role of Vladimir. And you feel, or I certainly felt that I was coming full circle, acting in the play being my first act of involvement in Beckett’s work and then now coming to the archive here and you get these beautiful manuscripts in Beckett’s unique handwriting and you’re sitting there with the magnifying glass and you’re peering in trying to reread every single word and they’re just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful texts.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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