Monday, September 12, 2016

Waiting for Godot: Who Is Samuel Beckett?

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was born on Good Friday, April 13, 1906, in Dublin, Ireland. His father, William Frank Beckett, worked in the construction business and his mother, Maria Jones Roe, was a nurse. Young Samuel attended Earlsfort House School in Dublin, then at 14, he went to Portora Royal School, the same school attended by Oscar Wilde. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in 1927. Referring to his childhood, Samuel Beckett, once remarked, “I had little talent for happiness.” In his youth he would periodically experience severe depression keeping him in bed until mid-day. This experience would later influence his writing.

In 1928, Samuel Beckett moved to Paris where he met and became a devoted student of James Joyce. In 1931, he travelled through Britain, France and Germany writing poems and stories and did odd jobs to support himself. On his journey, he came across many individuals who would inspire some of his most interesting characters.

In 1937, Samuel Beckett settled in Paris. Shortly thereafter, he was stabbed by a pimp after refusing his solicitations. While recovering in the hospital, he met Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnuil, a piano student in Paris, his future wife. After meeting with his attacker, Beckett dropped the assault charges, partly to avoid the publicity. 

During World War II, Samuel Beckett’s Irish citizenship allowed him to remain in Paris as a citizen of a neutral country. He fought in the resistance movement until 1942, when he and Suzanne fled to the unoccupied zone until the end of the war to avoid arrest by the Gestapo.

After the war, he re-settled in Paris and began his most prolific period as a writer. In five years, he wrote three plays, four novels, two books of short stories, and a book of criticism.

Samuel Beckett’s first publication, Molloy, enjoyed modest sales, but more importantly praise from French critics. Soon, Waiting for Godot, written in 1948-1949 in French, achieved quick success at the small Theatre de Babylone putting Beckett in the international spotlight. The play premiered in 1953, ran for 400 performances, and enjoyed critical praise.

Beckett’s works are filled with allusions to other writers such as Dante, Rene Descartes, and James Joyce. Beckett’s plays are not written along traditional lines with conventional plot and time and place references. Instead, he focuses on essential elements of the human condition in dark humorous ways. This style of writing has been called “Theater of the Absurd” by Martin Esslin, referring to poet Albert Camus’ concept of “the absurd.” The plays focus on human despair and the will to survive in a hopeless world that offers no help in understanding.

The 1960s were a period of change for Samuel Beckett. He found great success with this plays across the world. Invitations came to attend rehearsals and performances which led to a career as a theater director. In 1961, he secretly married Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnuil who took care of his business affairs. A commission from the BBC in 1956 led to offers to write for radio and cinema through the 1960s.

Samuel Beckett continued to write throughout the 1970s and 80s mostly in a small house outside Paris. There he could give total dedication to his art evading publicity. In 1969, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, though he declined accepting it personally to avoid making a speech at the ceremonies. However, he should not be considered a recluse. He often times met with other artists, scholars and admirers to talk about his work.

By the late 1980s, Samuel Beckett was in failing health and had moved to a small nursing home. Suzanne, his wife, had died in July 1989. His life was confined to a small room where he would receive visitors and write. He died on December 22, 1989, in a hospital of respiratory problems just months after his wife.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Waiting for Godot: Meet the Design Team

Jeanie K. Smith (Director/Producer/Props) has directed classics, contemporary, and new works for local theaters in the South Bay for over 15 years, including Dragon Theater (A Streetcar Named Desire, Rx), Los Altos Stage (Bus Stop, A Clean House, House of Blue Leaves), Shady Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet), Palo Alto Players (Clybourne Park, Harvey, God of Carnage, Boeing Boeing, Light in the Piazza) and the Pear Theatre (August: Osage County, Arcadia, House & Garden, The Tempest, The Seagull, Mrs. Warren’s Profession). Smith holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the U. of Washington, writes reviews for the Palo Alto Weekly and the San Jose Metro, and is a proud member of Stage Directors & Choreographers. 

Kelly Weber Barraza (Stage Manager) is excited to be stage managing her first show for the Dragon Theatre. She has worked numerous productions with The Pear Theatre, Los Altos Stage Company, Sunnyvale Community Players, South Bay Musical Theatre, and West Valley Light Opera.  Kelly would like to thank her husband, Michael, for all of his love and support.

Robert Sean Campbell (Scenic Designer) – assistant designed Coriolanus at Santa Clara University under the help and direction of Jerry Enos.  He also designed Wiley and The Hairy Man for Renegade Theatre Experiment and a production of Waiting for Godot at Santa Clara Players. Robert would like to thank his girls, Christina and Londyn, for their continual support and love.

Dan Garrett (Lighting Designer) is excited to join the cast and crew in bringing you Waiting for Godot! This is his third show with Dragon Productions, bringing his twelve years of technical theater experience to Redwood City. A native of the Santa Cruz area, he has supported over eighty productions with twenty different companies in a dozen venues with all aspects of technical work from light to flight. Recent credits include Master Carpenter for Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Lighting Designer for Spotlight Youth Conservatory’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Lead Flight operator for Cabrillo Stage’s Mary Poppins. Connect via

Gordon Smith (Sound Designer) continues to do sound design for shows at the Pear Theatre, Dragon Productions, Los Altos Stage, Shady Shakespeare, and Palo Alto Players. He has also assisted with props, scenic painting, and whatever else his wife asks him to do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Waiting for Godot: Meet the Cast

Ronald Feichtmeir (Estragon) has been doing theatre since middle school, acting in a children's theatre production where he played a frantic White Rabbit. He eventually got himself to college, where he studied acting for an extra year at the University of California Santa Cruz, in a certificate program there. During his undergraduate years there he also acted in both department productions, and in an independently student run, multi-cultural theatre group called Rainbow Theater at Stevenson college. More recently he's acted locally on the peninsula. Waiting for Godot will be his fourth show with director Jeanie Smith.

Jim Johnson (Vladimir) last appeared at the Dragon in Becky's New Car.  He also appeared in Sideman and Marvin's Room.  He has also been in many shows at the Pear Theatre, including Bach at Leipzig, The Illusion, Cherry Orchard, and The Tempest.  He was most recently seen at the Pear in Super Villain.

Robert Sean Campbell (Lucky) is a graduate of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and Santa Clara University, where he was the 2007 recipient of the William H. Leahy Award. In addition to acting for the stage and on camera, he is co-owner of Diamond in the Rough Films located in San Jose, CA. Select theatre credits include: Davey/David Quinn – The Voice of the Prairie, Septimus Hodge – Arcadia, Iago - Othello, Romeo – Romeo and Juliet, Brick – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Billy – The Real Thing, Trofimov – The Cherry Orchard, Jake Quinn, et al – Stones in His Pockets, Merritt, et al – Eat the Runt, George Tesman – Hedda Gabler, Villars – Complete Female Stage Beauty, Joe Pitt – Angels in America Part One, George Gibbs – Our Town, Adam – The Shape of Things, Jesus – The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Young Zeke Rowen – The Kentucky Cycle, and Coriolanus – Coriolanus. Select film credits include: Can't Thread a Moving Needle, S.E.R.P., and The Last Time I Saw Soap. For more information visit  All my love to my girls - Christina, Londyn, and Sugar.

Michael Champlin (Pozzo) is a South Bay actor and director who has been part of a few dozen productions since moving to the Bay Area just over ten years ago. It's been a few years since he's been part of a Dragon production, and it's thrilling to be part of this very exciting production of Waiting for Godot, as he will get to share the stage for the first time with his son, Jack. Much love to his wife Katie and youngest son, Henry. 

Jack Champlin (Boy) is making his Dragon debut after previously having performed for PYT in Charlotte's Web and Puss in Boots. When not on the stage, Jack can be found chasing Pokemon up and down the peninsula. Special thanks to Mommy, Daddy, Dylan and Henry!