FUN FACT: the former NYU President, and Founder and Executive Producer of the NYU Skirball Center also proposed the construction of the Glucksman Ireland House at NYU. His name was Dr. L. Jay Oliva, and he was the son of an Italian father and Irish-speaking mother from County Galway, Ireland.
NYU Skirball’s Irish roots are strong. And we are proud of it.
This is perhaps why the much-anticipated Beckett Trilogy has brought together international communities from across NYU who seem to be veritably fascinated with not only Beckett’s surrealist plays, but with Irish culture in general.
The Beckett Trilogy is just what it sounds like: a series of three short plays written by Samuel Beckett called Not I, Footfalls, and Rockaby. And if Beckett is writing them, you know the plays are going to be emotionally jarring, minimalist and groundbreaking—all at the same time. (In Beckett’s words, Not I consists solely of “a moving mouth with the rest of the stage in darkness.” Jarring. Minimalist. Groundbreaking.) They all happen to be one-woman plays.
Who knew Beckett was such a feminist?
As it turns out, he had a 25-year long relationship (talk about long-term!) with actress Billie Whitelaw, for whom he wrote these spectacular one-woman pieces. The roles were often physically and mentally demanding on Whitelaw: “Sam knew I would turn myself inside out to give him what he wanted,” Whitelaw explains in a New York Times article dated April 1996.
After ten years of interpreting these pieces around the world, Walter Asmus’ critically acclaimed rendition starring Lisa Dwan, who is currently in-residence at the NYU School for Ballet and the Arts, comes to NYU Skirball.
In a similar tradition to Whitelaw’s collaboration with Beckett, according to The Wall Street Journal, Dwan has “pulled muscles in her calf, developed migraines and after performances, has temporarily lost vision in one of her eyes and lost feeling in her face. After each run, she is covered with cuts, scabs and bruises. The harness cuts her ears, leaving her bleeding after many shows.” Performing Beckett, she says, injuries aside, has been a “tremendous privilege and gift.”
These three pieces, considered some of the last great modernist works and key productions in what scholars call the “Theatre of the Absurd”, is celebrated this April on Beckett’s birthday with a post-show conversation featuring Lisa Dwan and Sir Salman Rushdie, laureate critic of magical surrealism and cultural revivalism, hailing from British India. These performances mark the conclusion of Skirball’s Visions + Voices Global Performance Series.
The Irish Cultural Society at NYU, a new group of Irish culture students who are partnering with NYU Skirball to involve a focused audience of NYU students, will be joining us to share their club’s mission and participate in the festivities. So if it’s cultural exchange you want, you got it…with a side of theatre!
The Beckett Trilogy will be on stage at NYU Skirball Center for a little under a week, between April 13th and 17th, and student tickets are, as always, $15 with the code on this website.
by Nicole D’Alessio
NYU Class of ’17