Breaking Beckett

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Breaking Beckett

Breaking Beckett Poster Ryan.png

Theater The Institution Theater
Directed by Bob Olmstead
Music By Content Love Knowles
Crew Mark Shoemaker
Run Mar 2014

Breaking Becket is a longform narrative show inspired by the works of Samuel Beckett.


Breaking Beckett examines the moments we tend to not share: moments of heartbreak or overwhelming despair, childhood innocence lost, the shame of our most serious mistakes, all filtered through the work of Samuel Beckett. Inspired by but not beholden to the author’s absurdist one-act plays, the actors will adhere to the choreography of the pieces while following their own improvised storylines. This will both honor the playwright and sacrilegiously go against his scripted wishes, for a unique exploration of the light and dark edges of human experience that will only ever be witnessed by that night’s audience.

The production includes projected backdrops, costuming, and theatrical makeup as well as light and sound cues.

Show Structure

The show opens with the cast already seated on stage in 'stasis' as they have been since the opening of the house.

Act I: Walls as inspired by Quad 1 and 2

The first act begins with Beckett narrating broadly, awakening the cast from stasis, and the cast beginning a rhythmic movement pattern. Beckett takes a suggestion of a name and age. The rhythmic movement continues and is broken for a monologue from the protagonist describing the facts of their life. We return to the rhythmic movement which is again broken for parallel monologues by the supporting characters, an antagonist and an advocate for the protagonist. The movements repeat one more time, wherein soon after we see the protagonist's death.

Act II: Windows as inspired by Play

The second act begins with Sam narrating and moving the cast into Play position, seated side by side, a new act with a new look. Three parallel monologues that explore life after death, the same three characters from Act One, is the basis of Act Two. As well, the Beckett mechanics differ significantly then those in Act One.

Act III: Doorways as inspired by Not, I

The third act begins with Sam standing and removing his scarf, the cast follows removing their costume scarves and moving to the front of the stage. One by one, director to actor, we seem them in a whole new light, transparent and vulnerable, a very unique tilt that shatters the fourth wall. As well, all of Act Three is spot lit.


Breaking Beckett is the brainchild of Bob Olmstead. He approached Ryan Hill, Marc Majcher, and Jayme Ramsey about it and began rehearsals without even knowing where their show might play. Rehearsals, covering some thirty hours of work, lasted several months at the end of 2013. Olmstead developed the core show format after the first rehearsal, turning the idea into a full length play. Over a period of three months, the cast then worked closely with Bob on locking down all of the detailed mechanics necessary to bring this vision to life.

The robust collaboration process with the cast was comprehensive, constantly fine tuning elements that Olmstead would then incorporate into the overall vision. For example, the idea of the protagonist wearing a scarf came from the cast but then evolved multiple times into its current staging, the result of a back and forth between director and the cast, a great example of the kind of collaboration involved in developing the show. Another example is the stomp mechanics, which Olmstead had some very specific ideas about. Marc Majcher helped to refine the idea into key Act One transitions while Ryan Hill came up with the idea of using the three stomp pattern for all transitions. In watching Jayme Ramsey's amazing physicality, it hit Bob that the stomping in Act One was a march of daily drudgery and routine, which deeply informed how Act One plays out to the audience. The result is the look and feel that you see today, in Act One.

At the core of the show was a mantra taken directly from a Beckett quote, "I pause to record that I feel in extraordinary form."

Bob also consulted with Kareem Badr and Kaci Danger about show structure, makeup, design, narration and more, which played a very key role in the polish of the show. Eventually Asaf Ronen, Education Director of The Institution Theater, and a Beckett enthusiast, agreed to put up the show, helping Bob nail down the last few elements of lighting. A preview show took place on January 24, 2014 and two more shows are planned for March 2014 at The Institution Theater. A longer run for later in the year at another theater is in the works.




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