An Interview with Janeice Scarbrough: Waiting for Godot

Nov 8, 2018 by

MichaelF. Shaughnessy –

After spending over 15 years in New York City as a working playwright and actress, Janeice Scarbrough returned to her native New Mexico to try her hand at teaching.  During those 15 years, she received an MFA from Yale University in 1987 with a focus in Playwriting.  Her plays have been produced in New York, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Canada and here in Portales. She is a member of  Actors Equity Association and am Screen Actors Guild eligible.  She is from an Eastern New Mexico University family – her parents met when they were students in 1948, her sister Sonya worked at KENW and received her MA from the Department of Communication in the early 90’s, and her son, Eamon, received his BA from that same Department of Communication in 2011.  During her time as Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, we dropped the dance emphasis and added Digital Filmmaking.

She has directed over 30 plays in her years as an instructor and written 8 with 5 of those produced. 

After 26 years she is retiring in May 2019.

1)Professor Scarbrough, as I type this you are in your final stages ofpreparing to present the classic play by Samuel Beckett- “Waiting forGodot”. What are the challenges of putting on a play like this- that isquite existential, if you will?

Existential it is.  I first directed Godot at New Mexico State in Las Cruces in 1991.  All these years later, I get another chance to get it right.  But really, there is no right.  This group of energetic young actors bring something new to the project. And it becomes OUR wait – our journey.  I love the play.   I love the audience reaction.  I love the scratch of the head as they exit ….. I’ve done my job when they feel that way.

2)A little history – when was the play written and what do you know about Samuel Beckett?

The play was written first in French and copyrighted in 1952, with the English translation in 1954.  I’m not a theatre historian, but my understanding and interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s mind set was that post Hiroshima – post atom bomb – the drawing room comedy model of theatre production was no longer the language he wanted to speak in.  The world was fundamentally a different place.  Much like post-September 11th?

3)Two characters- a singular approach- what was going on in Beckett’s mind-and how do the actors keep the audience entranced?

We are entranced through humor.  The art (and the never ending pain) of waiting for our lives to begin.  And our two characters wait through painfully funny distraction.  If you think about it, how do you dramatize (find action) through hopeless in-action.  They have created rituals for themselves to get through the day.  In the second act, the rituals exist but they are shorter – as if we are spiraling toward … what … Godot’s arrival?  Or knowing he or it or whatever Godot is will never come?

4)Sorry to get political – but it seems we have two political parties- who arewaiting for some savior.Your thoughts?

Oh that’s a can of worms.  I’ve been asking myself the same questions for over two years now — How did this happen?  Will we live through it?  Fun fact — election day was during our rehearsal period and I took one of my cast members to vote for his very first time and most of our cast and crew used their right to vote.  That’s heartening!

5) In this day and age of text messaging- sincere conversation between two peopleseems lacking. What does this play say to this?

If the piece is about waiting and distraction, that’s something our millennials know how to do.  In my experience, they find many avenues of distraction.  They don’t really like to sit quietly and WAIT in the moment.  This is not a criticism – merely an observation.  

6)What have I neglected to ask?

Great questions!  If I direct this play again in 20 years how will it look and sound?  How will I look and sound?  Will our country, our world be intact? Will there be a horizon?  These are the questions that Waiting for Godot brings up for me.  Didi and Gogo will still be looking for a rope to hang themselves as they wait for …………….

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