Sunday, May 25, 2014

Waiting no more for Godot

Because of an enormously busy school year, I have gotten quite a bit behind in blogging, but yes! We read Waiting for Godot for literature this year! This play, published in 1948, was confusion to my dauaghter and me when we first read it four years ago. We were using a different curriculum at the time, which told us that the play was about nothing, and they are right, it is. Although I agreed with everything the curriculum said about the play, nothing they said shed light on the meaning of the play. 
Then we went to Colonial Willliamsburg and visited a program called "The Actor's Trunk" where the 18th century actors of Playbooth Theater share their props, programs, paintings, and other such paraphernalia.  I forget exactly what I asked, but it was something pre-18th century, which led to a discussion of Comedia dell'Arte, which I wasn't quite familiar with. While discussing Comedia dell'Arte, he gave several examples of stock characters, a few of which were the characters of Waiting for Godot!  Suddenly the play made more sense! Then the actor and my daughter got into quite a lengthy discussion of Waiting for Godot.  My daughter obviously picked up far more in her reading than I did! 
Well four years later, it was my son's turn to read Waiting for Godot. Because we were so busy I considered dumping the book, then I saw that it would be on his reading list for college. Waiting for Godot is on the Great Books list.
This time I was writing my own literature curriculum, basically by drawing from others'  expertise that I found on the internet and in person.  I definitely drew on everything I could possibly remember from the Playbooth Theater actor when I presented this play to my son. Also this time I read the introduction in the book, which our previous curriculum always told us *not* to do because their take was better. After all the stumbling my daughter and I did doing things their way, my son and I enjoyed a much clearer path reading the book introductions and talking to others.
Then I remembered how the Folger's Theater (the Shakespeare library and center of study in Washington DC) has always said that a play reads so much better when performed, than when read silently.  I did a bit of googling and brought up various you tubes of Waiting for Godot being performed for my son and I to watch and analyze. This was quite interesting and brought the book to life...at least for me. My son simply couldn't wait to read the play for himself by himself! He's that kind of kid, but if we had it to do again, I'd have my daughter follow along while watching a performance, since she struggled a bit more in school. Now that I think about it (as I type this) I'm suddenly remembering that because of her reading struggles back then, I subscribed to audible and downloaded all the books she had to read for 20th century literature.  Perhaps that is why she understood the play better than I did. She heard a performance of it and I did not. I read it silently to myself and was totally bored out of my gourd...suffering through each meaningless statement.
After my son finished reading the play, we discussed it. It is a play about nothing. We did discuss that in light to the 20th century worldview.  However held in light to Comedia dell'Arte, it made so much more sense and was even funny. I grew up on reruns of Laurel and Hardy and other variety shows that employ stock characters from Comedia dell'Arte. As I read Waiting for Godot this time, I imagined the lead characters being portrayed by Laurel and Hardy and then it became quite funny!
Speaking of funny, my son and I agreed that Sesame Street's Monsterpiece Theater version of Waiting for Godot outdid all the other theatrical versions we watched! Enjoy!

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