Tuesday, April 9, 2013
If you came here lookin' for 'the Fonz', you will be disappointed. Sorry. The "Happy Days" about which I am writing is the play written by Samuel Beckett in 1960-1961. Beckett was born in Ireland and lived most of his adult life in France. In 1969, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He wrote books and plays, of which 'Happy Days' is one.
In 'Happy Days', the main character, Winnie, is buried up to her waist in dirt. The sun shines 24 hours a day, and she is woken and notified of time to sleep by the ringing of an alarm. Winnnie's purse is filled with all her precious things, many of the same as you would find in women's purses today, with the addition of a revolver and a music box. Every day they are spread out in a certain order across the mound of dirt that encases her, and every night they go back into the bag. And she talks how every day "will have been a happy day"
Admittedly, a Beckett production takes some getting used to. My first experience was with "Waiting for Godot". It was produced by the Utah Shakespearean Festival, which is phenomenal; I had also not read the play first or attempted to find anything out about it or Beckett. There was so much repetition, and the play was so absurd...that my mother and I left during intermission. I know. Looking back it makes me cringe to think I dd that.
I played Winnie in 'Happy Days' during the same month I wrapped up my college degree in Finance. A man you had worked with my theatre professor had wanted to do this play for a while. The professor probably had the acting chops to do the role, but it was a college production and therefore needed student actors, and my professor...had certain chemical issues during that time period. Maybe my mind is clouded by t h e distance of time, but I think the director wanted me to play the part...because I don't remember auditioning. I got to play some fantastic characters that normally went to older actresses. But then, I've always been described as 'older' than I am chronologically.
Winnie mentions "The Merry Widow Waltz" during her ramblings, so the director had a music box specially made with that tune. Wow...talk about a humbling experience.
I had done another play at the Art Barn in February. During March I was supposed to be light technician for 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next" - but one of the actresses had to drop out and they asked me to take her part about a week before. I probably should have refused given the size of the task awaiting me in April, but it was acting, so of course I said, "I'd LOVE to!"
Lest I forget, in the second act, Winnie is covered up to her neck in the dirt. The first act lasted about 30 minutes, the second act about 15-20. The only other character is Willie, Winnie's husband, who lives in a cave on the back side of the mound. He speaks about a total of 40 words the entire play.
I spoke with my "Cases in Financial Management" professor, whose class was once a week on Tuesdays, about getting out early in order to make evening rehearsals. He was very agreeable. In fact, on the night of the final dress rehearsal, unbeknownst to me, he allowed all the students to leave early ... provided they attended the rehearsal. I was so touched; my performance was very emotional that night.
I came to the conclusion that Beckett is like Shakespeare. At first glance, sometimes both appear incomprehensible. But once you know the plot, relax, and let yourself go into the flow of the words...beautiful stories emerge.