The King’s Players Reimagines Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’

With a vision to blend the absurd with the profound, The King’s Players presented an inventive, modern interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s 1949 classic 'Waiting for Godot' on October 26 and 27.

Waiting for Godot
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With a vision to blend the absurd with the profound, The King’s Players presented an inventive, modern interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s 1949 classic Waiting for Godot on October 26 and 27. The creative team, led by New York City-based director Bryan Hunt and student producer Marisa Ayerst (MCA ’20), reimagined the text as a steampunk-inspired meditation on time, faith, memory, and philosophy. The production reached nearly 120 audience members over three performances, including a sold-out Saturday matinee.

The production starred sophomore Charles Soto (MCA ’21) as Vladimir and Mikaela “Mickey” Baker (MCA ’22) as Estragon, two bored wayfarers waiting for the enigmatic Godot to meet them near a lone willow tree. As they argue to pass the time, Kat Samelson (MCA ’20) as Pozzo and his slave Lucky, played by Benjamin Cook (Finance ’20), pass by and stop to philosophize. Wailing, moaning, screaming, blame-shifting, pouting, tantrum-throwing, hopping, limping, kicking, cackling, monologuing, dead-panning, caterwauling, breaking the fourth wall, and well-choreographed stage violence ensue.

The dynamic content of the show showcased the actors’ ranges in conveying each character’s emotions. Soto played Vladimir as faithful but increasingly paranoid, repeating the mantra “We wait for Godot” even while Baker’s Estragon pulled his leg and his heartstrings by threatening to leave him. Samelson entered the scene bellowing and cracking a riding crop, commanding attention despite her short stature. Cook played Lucky with great forbearance, spending nearly all of his stage time hunched, carrying Pozzo’s luggage, and the remaining time being attacked by the other characters or delivering a 700-plus-word monologue.

While Beckett’s play is written for five male characters, TKP chose to open the casting call to female students. Abby Tilly (MCA ’20), president and managing director of The King’s Players, explained that female King’s students had a lot of potential to handle the challenging material, so the casting was flexible but the characters were all played as written—male.

And while at first glance Waiting for Godot seems to be merely an oddball circus, Tilly explained her selection for the fall mainstage play: “I saw something beautiful in the madness. Godot is such a Kingsian show that touches on existentialism, the existence of God, and the futility of human hope. We hope for something that seems like it won’t happen. But the fact that we hope makes the difference.”

She credits Hunt, costume designer Mercedes Ronnander (MCA ’20), and lighting and set designer Jane Gendron (MCA ’21) with conceiving the steampunk aesthetic. From a minimalistic set draped with white tulle to vintage hats sporting decorative gears to a bubble-blowing pipe, the production design worked to transport audiences to a limbo between fable and reality. Dr. Henry Bleattler, chair of the MCA program, commented, “I’m always impressed with the thoughtfulness and ingenuity our students put into creating theater at King’s.”

The show required some patience on the audience’s part because of its peculiar pacing and quirky humor, but nothing could be more fitting for a play about the passage of time, repetition, and infinity. “Waiting for Godot is a difficult piece of theater to pull off well—particularly for a Christian school—but I think The King’s Players did it,” Bleattler said. “The play ends, as it is supposed to end, with a feeling of unending repetition and a ‘more of the same’ mentality, but in this production, I saw a glimmer of hope at the very end. As Christians, we know what and Who that hope is even if our feelings tell us otherwise.”

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