Tag Archive: Samuel Beckett

Mind AND Matter: Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with André the Giant at 59 E 59

Brendan Averett as Andre the Giant and Dave Sikula as Samuel Beckett in Sam & Dede, or my Dinner with Andre the Giant at 59E59 Theaters. Photo Jay Yamada.

True story: Irish writer Samuel Beckett, who lived most of his life in France, met and befriended the son of a neighbor, a very large young man known as Andre the Giant. Beckett drove Andre, called Dede, to school in his truck because Dede’s huge size made riding the regular school bus impossible. During the drives together, Beckett and Andre spent a lot of their time talking about cricket.

A Year of Beckett in New York

Lisa Dwan in Not I. Photo Richard Termine.

This is probably the best occasion for me to come out of the closet and confess my secret vice—a mild fondness for the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. A viewing of NYGASP’s The Yeomen of the Guard with an entirely unvictorian companion set me to thinking about certain genres of theatre and opera in which performance practices are prescribed by tradition or even some legal entity. NYGASP is well-known for throwing in a few uncanonical details, but basically they cleave to D’Oyly Carte’s no longer legally binding restrictions, because their audience of devotees expect that—in fact they derive great pleasure from stage routines which have no meaning whatsover in contemporary theater outside of a G & S. Perhaps the tastes of loving audiences have proven more binding than the D’Oyly Carte copyrights.

John Hurt in Krapp’s Last Tape from the Gate Theatre, Dublin, at BAM

It occasionally strikes me, to my own bemusement, that walking along a street on an average day, I might have in my pockets as many as three devices capable of recording pictures, even moving pictures, and perhaps two for recording sound. Modern technology has given ordinary people—anyone—an unprecedented ability to make precise literal records of what can be heard and seen at any given time and place. Using a device smaller than my hand I can create a seamless journal of sound, text, still images, and movies, if I choose, but I refrain. I rarely put these capabilities to use—only if there is something extraordinary…like the bizarre Australian accent of a tour guide on the Palatine last year, as he spun absurdities to his rapt crowd. (I wasn’t fast enough…) I am wary of these literal records. Are they the death of memory? Even during my undergraduate years, when the goings-on had every appearance of memorable times, I eschewed keeping a diary, taking notes, or even taking pictures. If I ever wrote about those times, I wanted to write from memory, with all its confusions and conflations, believing that someone else would be keeping an accurate chronicle of events to rescue me, if I needed it.

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