The Short Plays of Samuel Beckett

A festivity for Melpomene, Muse of tragedy

On the third day of Artsaha, on the 8th day of September

In which the following plays will be performed:


Breath Not I Mouth, Haley Piper
Auditor, Barry Carman
Come and Go Flo, Ami James
Vi, Haley Piper
Ru, Sarah Brown
Act Without Words II A, Barry Carman
B, Steve Krambeck
Reader, Sarah Brown
Cascando Opener, Vincent Carlson
Voice, Barry Carman
Quad Sarah Brown
Barry Carman
Ami James
Haley Piper
Nacht und Träume Dreamer, John Klinghammer
Dreamt Self, Barry Carman
Hands, Steve Krambeck
Rockaby Woman, Christina Carr
Voice, Jeanne Syquia


The interludes include portions of the “Sucking Stones” sequence from Molloy and recordings of Krapp’s Last Tape performed by the following members of ANALOG arts ensemble:


Christina Carr, Joe Drew, John Ellison, Heather Frasch, Marcia Kamper, Rudolf Kamper, John Klinghammer


Program Notes


Breath (1969)

This play could almost be a Saturday Night Live sketch or material for the Onion. Only seconds long, this short work captures the sound of a human breath. The stage is littered with debris, all horizontal, “no verticals.” It is life caught on the stage in its most basic form. If we are breathing, we are alive. As long as we can fog a mirror, we have not lost our hold on life. One remembers King Lear as he wills his dead daughter Cordelia to take even one breath. Or John Donne’s poem, Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, when he describes the nearly imperceptible breath of a dying man. When a baby is born, we wait for that first wail that indicates life and as we stand vigil with the dying, we watch to see when the chest falls, never to rise again.


Come and Go, A dramaticule (1965)

The three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth come to mind immediately with the opening line, “When did we three last meet?” And just as the origin and intent of Shakespeare’s Foul Sisters are unclear, we cannot be certain of Flo, Vi, and Ru.. These three old friends, “like bookends,” sit together, exchanging confidences and innuendo. Flo can “feel the rings” when they join hands, yet Beckett’s stage directions state, “No rings apparent.”


Cascando, A radio piece for music and voice (1962)

The Opener sets loose two characters, Voice & Music, who both struggle in vain to finish a composition. The static indeterminacy of Johnny Chang’s Festival, written for ARTSaha! 2006, is a perfect match for the tone of Beckett’s radio play.


Nacht und Träume (1982)

Repetitive movement in this play, as in much of Beckett’s work, assumes the power of ritual, creating a mythic resonance. There are no words. Our focus is drawn to a man’s, grey, bowed head, as he sits, hands resting on a table. As he dreams, ministering, disembodied hands, tend him, bringing him something to drink and wiping his brow. The tenderness is pronounced as it is confusing.


Not I (1972)

“I want the piece to work on the nerves of the audience,” Beckett wrote of Not I. Directors and actors pressed him for some explanation of this difficult piece and Beckett, in typical fashion refused to provide insight. “All I know is in the text,” he said. And so, the play does indeed work on the nerves. In 20 some minutes of diatribe, that is part Turret syndrome, part litany, the audience is as stunned by the woman’s words as she is. The character is uncertain of why, after a life of silence, she is now speaking. She does not know why she peaks and is reluctant even to admit that she is the one talking.


Act Without Words II: A mime for two players (1956)

The characters here, A and B, share a similar plight. They are inexplicably poked by a goad into action. Their movements seem futile, repetitious, and doomed. Yet they continue to perform their rituals. A and B have no interaction, yet their shared onstage presence provides a fellowship, even in the midst of drudgery. Beckett has a keen interest in what we do to get through our days, especially those days when life seems void of meaning and empty of purpose.


Quad (1982)

Tragicomic geometry: that’s one approach to this play, in which the characters, A, B, C, and D, follow strictly prescribed paths. Their matching costumes and appearance make them seemingly interchangeable. The script could be ripped from a High School geometry book. Beckett draws a square and labels the corners, A, B, C, and D. The characters are then assigned specific movements, always avoiding the middle of the square. Their movements, which seem almost comic at first, develop a rather frightening, dictated pace as the play progresses.


Rockaby (1980)

Rocking a baby to sleep. Rocking on a front porch, on a cool, autumn evening: safe, comforting images, that Beckett turns upside down in Rockaby. As the female occupant of a ceaselessly rocking chair recounts a painfully lonely life, her identity seems to merge with that of her deceased mother’s. The light shining off her sequined gown belies the dark existence of a woman trapped in a life of endless rocking.


Sucking Stones (1951)

This sequence comes from Beckett’s novel, Molloy. Molloy is the first of what Beckett called Three Novels and others refer to as the Trilogy. Molloy, passing the time near the sea, develops an elaborate ritual of stones. He rotates sixteen stones through his four pockets, sucking and discarding the stones in turn. The seemingly mindless activity develops as he struggles with his problems. The oral fixation in this sequence reappears again and again in Beckett, whose characters suck on carrots and stale biscuits and pipes.


That sucking, one of the most primal human activities, does not offer sustenance or life in traditional ways. Still, the activity becomes a ritual and ritual often provides comfort in Beckett’s world.


The instructions for rotating the stones become instructions for the musicians in this aleatoric treatment, devised by Uwe Dierksen. — Dr. Anne Marie Drew & Rene Edmunds