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Interview: Bill Irwin talks about the intersection of Beckett and the art of clowning in ON BECKETT at The Old Globe

Bill Irwin's ON BECKETT is playing at The Old Globe July 14 -17th. 

Interview: Bill Irwin talks about the intersection of Beckett and the art of clowning in ON BECKETT at The Old Globe

"The ON BECKETT evening, at least if I'm doing my job, is full of laughter."

Bill Irwin, who is not only a two-time Tony Award winner but also a master clown is sure to bring a uniquely funny experience in his solo piece ON BECKETT playing at The Old Globe July 14 -17th.

Created based on Irwin's long-time love of Beckett's work, and his use of language which has been haunting him for many years. The show became a combination of Irwin's two passions, the art of clowning and the power of Beckett's language and unique storytelling ability.

"More than a decade ago I realized I have all this Samuel Beckett in my head and I want to channel it somewhere so it will stop haunting me. It's his brinksmanship with big questions, but he's also an Irish raconteur at the same time. That is a function of Becket's writing in my life-a kind of haunting quality and it won't leave me alone."

Think of it like a humorous theatrical exorcism that explores the existential and the mundane of life and art.

From there ON BECKETT was born and became a 90-minute solo piece that explores multiple works from Beckett including TEXTS FOR NOTHING, WATT, and WAITING FOR GODOT to name a few. Passages from the playwright's writings intersect with Irwin's comedy, and contemplation of the stories and questions Beckett explored through his art to create this unique and funny show.

"It's a look at where the clown traditions intersect with Beckett's work. I've sat with Beckett scholars who say "there's no place for the clown in Beckett's writing" and then there are others who say "Oh, well it's all clown material." I guess I'm somewhere in the middle but that intersection is really an exciting place for me."

The art of clowning is a specific language and one that uses the physical to explore the world around them. Beckett's works use dark comedy to look at existential contemplations, the will survive even when faced with an incomprehensible world. Irwin says that the meeting of these two art forms intrigues him and forms the center of this show.

Interview: Bill Irwin talks about the intersection of Beckett and the art of clowning in ON BECKETT at The Old Globe

"There are a lot of words said in the 89 minutes of ON BECKETT but there is a lot of physical language too. Clowning is just the language of the human body and looking at the human deep foible. The saying is 'Pride goes before the fall' and with clowns you're always looking at that literal fall, the pride comes after when people laugh."

You may have last seen Irwin perform virtually in the show IN-ZOOM along with Christopher Fitzgerald during the pandemic. Irwin is glad to have the chance to bring laughter to The Old Globe this time in person.

"If any of these performances are without laughter then I have failed in my job."

How To Get Tickets

You can see Bill Irwin in ON BECKETT at 8 p.m. July 14 and 15; 2 and 8 p.m. July 16; and 2 and 7 p.m. July 17. For ticket information, you can call (619) 234-5623 or visit

Photo Credit: Bill Irwin in On Beckett. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Bill Irwin in Irish Repertory Theatre's virtual production of On Beckett. Photo courtesy of Irish Repertory Theatre/Carol Rosegg.

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