Retold in books, movies and documentaries, the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina is now being presented in true tragedy form on the stage. The Classical Theater of Harlem’s staging of “Waiting for Godot,” playing at the Moore Theater Wednesday and Thursday, is a modern-day parable on post-Katrina New Orleans.
Directed by Christopher McElroen, “Waiting for Godot” is a restaging of Samuel Beckett’s classic about two men, Estragon and Vladimir, who engage in a dialogue while waiting for the arrival of someone named Godot. Since its premiere in 1953, the play has invited myriad interpretations on account of its stripped-down plot structure.
“The production gave a powerful immediacy to a classic that has often been perceived as remote, fully realizing the agony of waiting as well as the irrepressibility of humanity, imagination and humor that is inherently faithful to [Beckett’s] play,” McElroen wrote in the program notes for the Hopkins Center production.
McElroen founded the non-profit CTH with the director Alfred Preisser in 1999. The theater company has brought several classics, including works by Shakespeare, to the Harlem stage.
McElroen first presented “Waiting for Godot” in 2006 in Harlem and again in 2007 in New Orleans. The five outdoor performances in New Orleans alone drew about 10,000 audience members.
CTH also extended its project to the community while in New Orleans. In addition to the outdoor performance, CTH engaged in community outreach through potluck dinners and art workshops. The company was also able to raise over $50,000 to help rebuild homes and communities in New Orleans.
McElroen, speaking at a lunch discussion sponsored by the Tucker Foundation on Tuesday, said that the New Orleans residents the cast met while in Louisiana gave the story new meaning. McElroen said that the experience inspired him to simply tell a story, and not to be overt about the Katrina connection.
“If we beat people over the head with social change, social change will be reluctant to occur,” actor Glenn Gordon, who plays the character Lucky, said at the discussion.