This summer, CSU theatre faculty and members of Fort Collins’ Bas Bleu Theatre Co. travelled to Northern Ireland for the fourth annual 2015 Happy-Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, held in Enniskillen, July 23 – Aug. 3. Colorado State University’s Center for Studies in Beckett and Performance and Bas Bleu Theatre Company were invited to the prestigious festival to present Beckett’s Women and Eh Joe.
The creative team was comprised of Price Johnston, interim director of CSU Theatre and Dance and associate professor of Lighting, Sound and Projection Design, Dr. Eric Prince, CSU professor and Center director, Wendy Ishii, Bas Bleu artistic director, and Tricia Navarre, Bas Bleu production manager. CSU Theatre Professor Dr. Laura Jones accompanied the team.
According to the festival’s website, the annual event is a “major cultural event bringing diverse communities together, mixing local and international audiences and artists.” The island community was selected as a locale for the celebration of the Irish writer Samuel Beckett as he attended the Portora Royal School there as a teen.
The Center for Studies in Beckett and Performance at CSU started in 2002 and the trip to Northern Ireland was a culmination of over a decade of collaborative research, writing, and performance between the group from CSU and Bas Bleu.
“Giving Beckett’s plays new life and new audiences is our mission, and certainly attending the Happy-Days Festival with these two productions is a mile marker on the Center’s chronology,” expressed Prince.
The team was the only American troupe at the international festival, and Beckett’s Women was especially anticipated as it was devised by Prince at the invitation of the 2015 Happy-Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, with the approval of Edward Beckett and the Estate of Samuel Beckett. “The entire process has turned out to be excellent outreach and visibility for us,” said Prince.
In addition to rehearsing and performing the double bill several times, and sightseeing as much as possible, Ishii and Prince were featured on BBC Radio Ulster’s “The John Toal Show.” Their segment starts at 6:00, but listen to the entire clip for rousing music and a delightful exchange about Irish vegetarian fare.
Beckett's Women with Wendy Ishii: Moments from the Plays of Samuel Beckett: Some of Samuel Beckett’s memorable moments are provided by the voices of his women, characters that seem earthly and recognizable, yet inhabit strange and spectral places of torment. Beckett’s Women gently opens windows into an austere and imaginative universe.
Eh Joe, Beckett’s first play for television: Originally broadcast in 1966 by BBC Television, the rarely seen play remains one of Beckett’s distinctive dramas: chilling, poetic, and spellbinding. This re-visioning features Prince and Ishii, with design by CSU’s Price Johnston, in a visual and aural interpretation that remains true to Beckett’s vision.
Today’s double bill of Eh Joe and Beckett’s Women was played to a packed house! Audiences exiting Eh Joe yesterday called it “spine chilling” and “psychologically thrilling” while Beckett’s Women was “engrossing, totally compelling.” ~ Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival
New York Times / 07.30.15
Northern Ireland town embraces Beckett
There was lots else to see and hear in the festival’s first few days: A double bill of “Eh Joe,” created for television in 1966, with the actor Eric Prince, and “Beckett’s Women,” extracts from plays performed by Wendy Ishii. ~ Roslyn Sulcas
The Independent, UK / 07.27.15
No Lack of Vision at Fourth Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival
“If, as Walter Pater said, all art aspires to the condition of music, then no artist exemplifies this more clearly than Beckett, and on the evidence of Enniskillen, his closest composer-confrere is Schubert. As well as in Stirrings Still, Schubert’s music played a key role in two other productions I saw – the unsettling dance piece May B, the work of the Maguy Marin Dance Company which was based on Beckett writings – and Beckett’s Women, in which the wonderful Wendy Ishii of the Colorado-based Bas Bleu theatre company, performed extracts from women’s roles in Beckett plays.” ~ Simon O’Hagan
The Daily Telegraph, UK / 07.27.15
In a church hall, Beckett’s first TV play, Eh Joe (1965), relayed as if on retro black-and-white sets, featured a first-rate turn from Eric Prince as the silent, crazed, tormented Joe. Another highlight: a boat-trip at dusk along the Erne to Devenish Island, site of ancient monastic ruins and setting for a chamber revival of Ohio Impromptu…A chance to soul-search and sightsee at the same time. Can you have your Beckettian cake and eat it? ~ Dominic Cavendish
Festival Facebook Page
Beckett’s Women just premiered at St Macartin’s Hall. Wendy Ishii gave a stellar performance, giving depth and feeling to each distinct character. Can’t wait to see Eh Joe tomorrow!
Join us at the University Center for the Arts for reprise of the productions. An Evening with Samuel Beckett, presented by the Center for Studies in Beckett and Performance at CSU and Bas Bleu Theatre takes place on Saturday, Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m. in the University Dance Theatre.
$5 tickets are available at www.csuartstickets.com