I told my COMM 130 classmate Federico that if he didn’t text me on Thursday night about the theater showcase, I wouldn’t go. Sure enough I got a call from him, my mind almost simultaneously connected Federico, to Thursday, to the showcase. “Yeah, I’ll go,” I said. Even though theater consumed my already pathetic life during high school, going into college, I couldn’t have cared less. I respect the art of acting, I’m down with The Method, I have no problem with theater people (for the most part), why not go to a late night ritual with stage rats.
Being in that theater building, awkwardly standing by as Federico and his cohorts jawed on, sitting knee-to-knee with drama geeks watching dark absurdist theater in a room so dimly lit that David Fincher’s DP would have been jealous, was weird. Not in a bad way necessarily, I had fun and enjoyed the performance, I just had a weird time cramming into my brain that I was actually in that situation. The night showcased the golden goose professor of the theater department, Craig Fleming, performing Samuel Beckett’s one-man, one-act Krapp’s Last Tape, about a bitter old guy remembering his youth through the journal tapes he recorded throughout the years, subsequently recording one last tape. The staged area was setup with a desk where Krapp sat, with a reel-to-reel for tape playback, a single lamp hanging above, and three televisions. The televisions would light up with images to accompany the words of the tape he was listening to. That added abstraction, the constant symbolism being thrown at me like angry darts, the Fincher lighting, and the exhausting temperature (I thought taking my jacket off would remove audience members from the compelling moment) continued to throw off my psychological equilibrium.
There were moments where I wondered if this tiny establishment was just a fat inside joke. Moments when there was laughter from the audience where it definitely was not supposed to be funny made me think that some kids had the subconscious reflex of, “I know that guy, so it’s funny.” And I’m not bagging on the performance at all. Attending any showcase of Beckett is like going to a cult classic at the Art Theatre. Nerds, hardcore whatevers, hipsters, and people who just generally have interesting taste flock to it like it’s tangible cred. The night was drowning itself in that cred.
Being shoved into that not-too-large rectangular classroom with smelly theater punks did have a strange vibe that I liked because it felt edgy and unknown to 90% of the students at Long Beach. This was invisibly aided by the fact that this was all going on close to midnight. If this same scenario would have taken place at the Friday afternoon showcase, it would have had a totally different and probably forgettable feel. That’s why I’m sure I’ll go back as many times as Federico texts me a reminder. I feel it’s always going to be a weird experience where I can consciously see life happening before me and think philosophically about why I do the things I do, but Beckett was into that stuff, so it works.