Bud Thorpe has spent no shortage of time “Waiting for Godot.” A close collaborator of the late playwright Samuel Beckett, Thorpe has played, at various points in his professional acting career, both of the two leads in anticipation of “Godot.” This Friday, Thorpe stars in “One of the Damned Few,” a play co-written with and directed by professor Toni Dorfman, director of undergraduate studies for the Theater Studies Department.
The show, the first World Performance Project production of the new year, explores veteran actor Thorpe’s experience working with Beckett, the Irish writer, dramatist and poet responsible for such plays as “Waiting for Godot” and “Happy Days” and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in literature. Thorpe first worked with Beckett in 1978 when he was cast by the playwright himself in a Berlin production of “Endgame.”
Thorpe and Dorfman, who have worked together for two decades, spent two years assembling the show. In 2000, they collaborated on a Yale student production of “Waiting for Godot,” Dorfman’s directorial debut at the University.
Thorpe took a break from his rehearsal on Monday night to chat with the News.
QCan you talk a little about the nature of your role in “One of the Damned Few” and how the show serves as a tribute to your former collaborator, Samuel Beckett?
AWell I think more than anything else it is a tribute but it’s also a personal journey. My collaborator here at Yale, Toni Dorfman, and I started thinking about this two years ago. Over the two years, and then specifically probably over the past year, we assembled what I would call a journey of before I worked with Samuel Beckett, during, and then after [working with him]. I think a lot of the reason why I worked so well with Beckett is attributed to the fact that I began in sketch comedy, and this study of comedy I did in Chicago was a needed understanding of wet comedy to be able to play his dry comedy. What we did in Chicago was totally beyond realism, which I believe was needed to draw inwardly to perform the works of Beckett.
QWould you like to say a few words about the nature of Beckett’s work for those who might only know his name and not exactly know what to expect from his work or “One of the Damned Few”?
AYou see, the thing is, that’s the world of academics. You want to call me a theatrician — go right ahead. That I leave to the academics because that is what drives them — digging, coming up with the understanding. It’s not for me to delve in to try to explain what his works are about. I mean, we know that he is an absurdist — he and [Eugene] Ionesco. You have to think that in the beginning, if it was Ionesco and Beckett, then came [Harold] Pinter, then came Beckett, and then came somebody like David Mamet. It’s what you want to call a symphony of sounds: They used the word in a particular way, utilized the specific words, so there was a symphony, so there was an orchestration to their own personal writings.
QThank you. That was a really nice “non-answer” answer to the question. The press release also does not say much about the way the show will go and your character. Would you like to say something about that?
AIt’s a personal journey. And that’s what I’m going to leave it at. It’s my personal journey of how I was able to perform with Samuel Beckett. Because of the time, because of how we met, because of the trust, because of how I was introduced to Beckett and working with him, he made me a very honest performer for his works. He became very much of a trusting, loving, grandfather image over the years.
“One of the Damned Few” runs from Jan. 16 to Jan. 18 in the Nick Chapel Theater of Trumbull College. Reservations can be made on the World Performance Project Web site in advance.