Visit our social channels!
October 11, 2015
Gare St Lazare Co-founder Judy Hegarty Lovett on Directing Plays by Samuel Beckett

imageInterpreting the work of Samuel Beckett is for some, an undertaking as formidable and imposing as the contours of the playwright's granite features. For others, his trademark characters' oblivion to the slapstick of their own mishaps and the melancholic space in which they are so often set adrift provide the measure of the last laugh.

In 1996, Judy Hegarty Lovett and Conor Lovett founded Gare St Lazare Players Ireland in County Cork, dedicated to the faithful rendering of Beckett's work. Since then they have become Ireland's most traveled theater company with a highly esteemed reputation. In addition to Beckett, Gare St Lazare Ireland have adapted Moby Dick and produced an original play, Title and Deed, last seen in New York at the Signature Theatre in 2012. There will be a limited run (October 13th to the 17th) of their acclaimed production of Waiting For Godot at NYU Skirball. In November, Lincoln Center's White Light Festival will host two more of their productions, The End and Here All Night. StageBuddy talked to Gare St Lazare Players Ireland co-founder and director Judy Hegarty Lovett about Beckett on the move.

Gare St Lazare Ireland has a long history of producing works by Samuel Beckett. Recently, the New York Times described you as unparalleled Beckett champions. When forming your theater company back in 1996, what did you think might distinguish you from the multiple Beckett interpretations elsewhere?

Back in 1996 we were not thinking ahead to much. Come to think of it that’s still the case.

How has your relationship with Beckett's work changed or evolved since co-founding Gare St Lazare Ireland twenty years ago?

Big changes happen with time. The more you learn the less you know. It’s all about peeling away the layers. I think what has deepened most with time is the sense of Beckett as one of the rare masters that comes along every century or so and whose commitment to expression through his/her craft allows for a whole host of interpretations while being accessible and entertaining to all.

Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot

Waiting For Godot interpretations continue still and for a time Beckett himself tired of them. He wasn't one to dwell on the fore or afterlife of characters beyond the play. With that in mind, as a director of Beckett's work, how do you guide characterization and motive?

I leave that to the actors. If I’m not getting a sense of purpose I’ll let them know and usually they know how to solve that.

'Less is more' really is the adage for Waiting For Godot. Why do you think the play persists in inspiring audiences when throughout, so little seems to occur?

It’s a great play and so many things are suggested and so little said. There’s so much to be said for silence too. It's very much a choreography where the action is a dance and the words are the score.

Beckett's minimalism allows a particular kind of freedom with scrupulous boundaries. By comparison, how freeing or restrictive was it working on Will Eno's original play Title and Deed back in 2012?

I felt a combination of both working with both. Boundaries can be good but mostly good writers aren’t being restrictive, they are just being good writers. They distill things so we are left with focused writing and that makes for good theater.

You co-founded Gare St Lazare Ireland with your husband, actor Conor Lovett. Between you, you wear many hats. Did working together in various creative roles take some getting used to initially?

Yes, it still does. But it's like those ads on the subway for running your own business. It's satisfying and challenging at the same time.

As Ireland's most traveled theater company, are there distinct differences in the reception you have received when playing to the 80+ cities and 25+ countries you have thus far visited? Are there any performances that stand out in particular, perhaps on account of perceived cultural differences?

China was a blast! The audiences there are getting used to the idea of sitting and watching a sustained entertainment that relies largely on their complicity. There is a wonderful enthusiasm and energy from them.

Here All Night
Here All Night

In November, Gare St Lazare Ireland will be presenting The End and Here All Night as part of the Lincoln Center's White Light Festival. While The End is based on a Beckett short story, Here All Night mixes Beckett's music, songs, poems and text with original musical composition and improvised fiddle playing. How much of a challenge was it to blend so many disciplines and how much of a role has music played in your other productions?

Working on Beckett, music is there all of the time. I really mean that. Beckett was a wonderful combination of a musician, sportsman, intellectual, man of letters, playwright, visual artist and comedian.

Two out of the three productions arriving in New York have an ensemble cast of actors or musicians. Many of Gare St Lazare Ireland's other productions have a cast of one. How much of a challenge or is it to fill up the stage?

Same thing just more. It's the same basic idea of collaboration to make an entertaining artistic event.

What advice would you give to drama students or new directors tackling Beckett for the first time?

Do it. He’s the best. Let the words and your own reading of them be your guide. Beckett has attracted a lot of academic interest like any great writer and sometimes you come across writers first in an academic context and that's all fine. But remember he was writing for his fellow humans and his work is by a person about people. You won’t need anyone but yourself to read it and enjoy it.

Share this post to Social Media
Written by: K Krombie
More articles by this author:

Other Interesting Posts


Or instantly Log In with Facebook