TFANA to Present Final Extension Of WAITING FOR GODOT Starring Michael Shannon & More

Theatre for a New Audience extends Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" through December 23.

By: Dec. 05, 2023
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TFANA to Present Final Extension Of WAITING FOR GODOT Starring Michael Shannon & More

Theatre for a New Audience will present a second, and final, extension of its production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, directed by Arin Arbus, now running through December 23. (A previous two-week extension set the production to close December 17). Waiting for Godot reunites Michael Shannon (TFANA: Des Moines and The Killer; Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Knives Out, Revolutionary Road) and Paul Sparks (TFANA: The Killer; Grey House, Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo, Boardwalk Empire) — who here play the disheveled, salvation-seeking duo Estragon and Vladimir — following their collaboration in The Killer, the work of another groundbreaking absurdist, Eugene Ionesco (directed by Darko Tresnjak in 2014).

 

The cast of Waiting for Godot is Shannon, Sparks, Toussaint Francois Battiste (A Raisin in the Sun) as a Boy, Jeff Biehl (TFANA: The Merchant of Venice; Machinal) as Lucky, and Ajay Naidu (TFANA: Richard II and Henry IV workshops; Measure for Measure, The Master and Margarita) as Pozzo. The production stage manager is Shane Schnetzler. The creative team is Riccardo Hernandez (Scenic Designer), Susan Hilferty (Costume Designer), Chris Akerlind (Lighting Designer), Palmer Hefferan (Sound Designer), Byron Easley (Choreographer), Marcia Polas (Movement Consultant), Bill Irwin (Creative Consultant), Andrew Wade (Voice Director), Jon Knust (Properties Supervisor), Jonathan Kalb (Dramaturg), and J. David Brimmer (Fight Director).

 

Vinson Cunningham praised the production in The New Yorker, writing, “Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, directed by Arin Arbus—who's always up to something you want to see—is often set aside as an example of onstage philosophizing, all cerebral existentialism, with none of the comforts of conventional plot. But in the hands of Arbus, along with Michael Shannon, who plays Estragon, and Paul Sparks, who plays Vladimir, the play becomes what it has always been: a thrilling, melancholy, comic slice of life on earth.”

 

In Vulture/New York Magazine, Sara Holdren commended Arbus' “vigorous and down-to-earth” production, and its performances: “As a duo, Sparks and Shannon have all the chemistry you would hope for…they light up. They play easily with each other, and they render Beckett's heightened text extremely legible.” She added that Ajay Naidu as Pozzo “sketches a clear satire of power…he's funny, but he turns your stomach too” while Jeff Biehl as Lucky delivers “a milestone speech for an actor” and “pulls it off with sinister force.”

 

In a four-star review in Time Out, Raven Snook wrote, “The genuine friendship between Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks distinguishes the latest major New York staging of Samuel Beckett's absurdist landmark Waiting for Godot…The actors share a palpable mutual affection; their long collaborative history, which includes The Killer onstage [with TFANA] and Boardwalk Empire on TV, imbues their relationship with breathtaking verisimilitude…this play seems timeless, and this production is evidence of its ongoing power.” Tim Teeman at The Daily Beast described it as “witty” and an “excellent production,” adding that “Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks bring a bracing comedic energy that makes sense of the play's various absurdities and resonant depth. It's a rare production that you want to carry on Waiting for Godot with Didi and Gogo, but this is one.” David Cote in Observer noted that “the powerhouse duo” Shannon and Sparks “blend their idiosyncratic styles so ingeniously with the text, they give it uncommon clarity. Arbus and her actors achieve a dynamic and even heartfelt production of a classic.” He added, “I'm grateful to this keen director and her phenomenal actors—and promise not to forget.” In Lighting and Sound America, David Barbour praised the “peerless star performances and inventive direction,” elaborating, “Arbus continues to impress as a director who is at home with all sorts of canonical works.” He further wrote: “Michael Shannon and Paul Sparks mine fresh insights…Ajay Naidu is the most authoritative Pozzo I've ever seen…Jeff Biehl's Lucky… made me look at Godot anew.”

 

Originally slated for spring 2020 and postponed due to the pandemic, Waiting for Godot is the fourth Samuel Beckett work presented by TFANA which include: the (2011 and 2012) Bouffes du Nord production of Fragments, directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne; the 2017 Yale Repertory Theatre production of Happy Days featuring Dianne Wiest and Jarlath Conroy; and the 2021 TFANA production for Zoom of First Love with Bill Camp, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis. In Samuel Bekett's Waiting for Godot, the characters' cyclical journey has become a modern classic.

 

Since their first appearance in a tiny Paris theatre in 1953, Beckett's iconic down-and-outs Vladimir and Estragon have rarely been off the stage. Nearly every evening, somewhere on the globe, they show up for their dubious appointment with a savior named Godot who never comes, filling time with games and musing aphoristically on existence. Hilarious and heartbreaking, Waiting for Godot is the modern theatre's indispensable document of rootlessness, uncertainty, and perpetually postponed deliverance.

 

TFANA Resident Director Arin Arbus—whose critically acclaimed productions for the company include her OBIE Award-winning staging of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, and who has also staged Shakespeare, Ibsen and Strindberg, and Denis Johnson—directs her first Beckett work.

 

Arbus says, “I vividly remember the first time I experienced a Beckett play. I was a young person at the time. I'd been to the theatre a bunch, but I'd seen shows with singing and dancing, shows where characters revealed their secrets, fell in love, committed crimes, went on adventures; stories in which big things happened to characters, and through it all they'd gain insight into themselves and transformed by the end! And then I saw a Beckett play —and it was astonishing, unlike anything I'd experienced before. Godot contains very little except repetition, stasis, and erosion, such a succinct and clear-eyed summary of what we all experience.”

 

About Arin Arbus (Director)

 

Arin Arbus is a resident director at TFANA, where she directed Denis Johnson's Des Moines, The Merchant of Venice starring John Douglas Thompson as Shylock (also at The Shakespeare Theatre of DC), Winter's Tale, Skin of Our Teeth (Obie), repertory productions of Strindberg's The Father and Ibsen's Doll's House, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Measure for Measure and Othello. She directed Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Tony nom. for best revival) with Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon on Broadway and Abe Koogler's Deep Blue Sound for Clubbed Thumb. She has also directed at Canadian Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera, Chicago Lyric, Woodbourne Correctional Facility in association with Rehabilitation Through the Arts, and at Ristona Refugee Camp for The Campfire Project.

 

About the Cast

 

Toussaint Francois Battiste (a Boy). Most recently Toussaint (“T”) appeared as Travis Younger, opposite his father in the critically acclaimed, Lucille Lortel winning revival of A Raisin in the Sun at The Public Theater, directed by Robert O'Hara. Based with his family in Sacramento, CA, Battiste is in the 6th grade.

 

Jeff Biehl (Lucky) Broadway: Machinal (Roundabout). Off-Broadway: The Unbelieving (The Civilians), The Merchant of Venice (TFANA), Life Sucks (Drama Desk Nom. Outstanding Actor, Wheelhouse), Catch as Catch Can (Page73), Charles Francis Chan Jr's Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery (NAATCO), 10 Out of 12 (Soho Rep), Poor Behavior (Primary Stages), Burning (New Group), Isaac's Eye (EST). Regional: world premieres at Yale Rep, Denver Center, Woolly Mammoth, and Humana Festival. Film: Relay (upcoming), Worth, A Master Builder, Ricki and the Flash. TV: The Path, Vinyl, Mysteries of Laura, Forever, Southland, all Law & Orders. Juilliard.

 

Ajay Naidu (Pozzo) A veteran of many theatre productions, Naidu has been working with Theater Complicité, where credits include Measure for Measure, The Master and Margarita and The Kid Stays in the Picture. He is a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company. His film credits are extensive, and he is known for playing “Samir” in the cult hit Office Space and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Rick Linklater and Eric Bogosian's SubUrbia. His directorial debut Ashes won him best actor awards at the London Asian Film Festival and the New York Indian Film Festival. He has appeared in many notable television shows.   

 

Michael Shannon (Estragon) is an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony Award nominated actor. This is his third show at TFANA, having previously performed in Ionesco's The Killer, directed by Tony Award winner Darko Tresnjak, and Denis Johnson's Des Moines, directed by Arin Arbus. He also collaborated with Arbus in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune on Broadway, alongside Audra McDonald. Shannon recently wrapped his film directorial debut, Eric LaRue, based on the Brett Neveu play that debuted at A Red Orchid Theatre (of which Shannon is a founder) in Chicago in 2002. Shannon recently starred opposite Jessica Chastain in Showtime/Paramount+ limited series George & Tammy. He is currently filming Jeff Nichols' The Bikeriders, marking Shannon's eighth re-team with Nichols, with previous collaborations including Loving, Hank the Cowdog, Midnight Special, Take Shelter, Mud, and Shotgun Stories.

 

Paul Sparks (Vladimir) Broadway: Grey House, Hedda Gabler, Take Me Out. Off-Broadway: The Killer (TFANA), Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo, Buried Child, Dusk Rings a Bell, Essential Self Defense, Landscape of the Body, Orange Flower Water, Blackbird, Coyote on the Fence. Film: Upcoming: The Bikeriders, Eric LaRue, Lost on a Mountain in Maine. Recent: The Lovebirds; Thoroughbreds; The Greatest Showman, Midnight Special. Television: Physical, Joe Pickett, Waco, Castlerock, The Night Of, Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, The Girlfriend Experience, Sweetbitter. Six Drama Desk nominations in addition to Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, Lortel, and Emmy nominations. Winner of SAG and Independent Spirit Awards.

 

Waiting for Godot Performance Schedule

 

Performances of Waiting for Godot, which began November 4, take place at Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Pl, Brooklyn), and now continue through December 23. Remaining performances take place December 5–10, 12–17, and 19–23 at 7:30pm. There will be matinee performances December 9–10, 16–17, and 23 at 2pm.  

 

Season Subscriptions

 

Season subscriptions—with benefits including priority booking, flexible exchange policy, discounted guest tickets, discounts for the Book Kiosk in the Polonsky Shakespeare Center lobby, and more—are available online at tfana.org/season; by phone at (646) 553-3880; and in person at the box office.

 

2023-2024 subscription packages:

·         Three Play Package ($174): One ticket to each of the remaining three productions in the 2023-2024 Season at just $58 per ticket: Waiting for Godot, Public Obscenities, Macbeth (an undoing)

·         Flex Pass Package ($240): a four-ticket package for just $60 per ticket. Use them in any combination for any of the shows in the 2023-2024 season.

 

Subscriber add-ons include Guest Tickets for $60 and New Deal Tickets for $20. Subscriber New Deal tickets—for those aged 30 and under, and for full-time students of any age—are available for all performances for $20 and can be purchased in advance or day-of online, by phone, or at the box office with valid ID(s) required at pickup.

 

All sales are final. No refunds. All packages are subject to a $10 handling fee.

 

Single Tickets

 

Full-price tickets are $90 for Waiting for Godot, and Premium tickets are $125. New Deal tickets— for those aged 30 and under, and for full-time students of any age—are available for all performances for $20 and can be purchased in advance or day-of online, by phone, or at the box office with valid ID(s) required at pickup.

 

For Waiting for Godot, audiences can purchase cash-only Pay-What-You-Can tickets at the door starting at 6:30pm for the 7:30pm performance on Thursday, December 21. Tickets are first come, first served, and limited to one ticket per patron.

 

New Deal ticket subsidies are supported by the Audrey H. Meyer New Deal Fund.

 

All productions, artists, and dates are subject to change.

 

Principal support for Theatre for a New Audience's season and programs is provided by the Bay and Paul Foundations, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Jerome L. Greene Foundation Fund in the New York Community Trust, The SHS Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and The Thompson Family Foundation.

 

Theatre for a New Audience's season and programs are also made possible, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

 

About Theatre for a New Audience

 

Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, and led by Horowitz and Managing Director, Dorothy Ryan, Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) is home for Shakespeare and other contemporary playwrights. It nurtures artists, culture, and community. Recognizing that each audience is new and different from the last one, TFANA is dedicated to forging an exchange between artist and playgoer that is immediate and direct, and to the ongoing search for a living, human theatre.

 

With Shakespeare as its supreme guide, TFANA explores the ever-changing forms of world theatre and builds a dialogue spanning centuries between the language and ideas of Shakespeare and diverse authors, past and present. TFANA is committed to building long-term associations with artists from around the world and supporting the development of plays, translations, and productions through residences, workshops, and commissions. TFANA performs for an audience of all ages and backgrounds; is devoted to economic access; and promotes a vibrant exchange of ideas through its humanities and education programs.

 

TFANA's productions have played nationally, internationally and on Broadway. In 2001, it became the first American theatre company invited to bring a production of Shakespeare to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

TFANA created and runs the largest in-depth program to introduce Shakespeare and classic drama in New York City's Public Schools. Since its inception in 1984, the program has served more than 140,000 students.

 

In 2013, TFANA opened its first permanent home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center (PSC), in the Brooklyn Cultural District. The heart of PSC is its performance space: the 299-seat Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage, a uniquely flexible space with extraordinary acoustics, capable of multiple configurations between stage and audience; as well as the 50-seat Theodore C. Rogers Studio.

 

In addition to productions, TFANA supports ongoing artistic development through the Merle Debuskey Studio Program, which provides artists with residencies and workshops to create and explore outside the pressures of full production.

 

TFANA honors the Lenape and Canarsie People, on whose ancestral homeland Polonsky Shakespeare Center is built. The organization is committed to rethinking the stories it tells about our history and our connection to each other.

Waiting for Godot




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