This weekend The New Moon Theatre Company opens Endgame, Samuel Beckett's tragicomic meditation on mortality, tyranny, servitude, and the cycles of nature and necessity that bind us together in mutual discomfort. Beckett knew his plays weren't easy. He called them his "monsters," but they're well worth the extra effort.
The New Moon's Endgame features Ron Gephart, a Eugart Yerian honoree for lifetime achievement in Memphis theater, as Hamm, the fading lord of all he surveys, now blind, and confined to a wheelchair. Here's what he had to say about the character's condition, and what it takes to wrestle with a "monster."
Intermission Impossible: Beckett's writing is so rich with Metaphor. Obviously Hamm the tyrant is nearing the end of life, but I've often wondered if his sight actually failed, or if, at some level, he just forgot how to see. And to walk. I've wondered if these troublesome degradations of aging were, in some regards preferable, or protective. Not that that's the case, I'm just thinking aloud and wondering what kinds of questions you've asked while working on this character.
Ron Gephart: “The New Republic” recently had a cover story about the debilitating effects of loneliness, not just on the mind, but the body as well. I was struck by how this might apply to the characters in “Endgame.” The script makes it pretty clear that faculties are lost as they are not used. So, yes, I can accept that Hamm is really blind and cannot stand. Also, in the absence of much life left on the planet it’s a struggle to hang on to the essence of the human experience: relationships built on shared stories. Hamm and Clov desperately cling to each other for survival because if their relationship ends they are both doomed. I don’t necessarily think the game ends in stalemate but I do think there are no winners.
Intermission Impossible: Plays like Endgame require so much physical restraint and precision. How hard is it, sitting in the wheelchair being served?
Ron Gephart: It’s a monster of a role. It’s a bit odd getting out of the chair at the end of the evening because you really do accept the conditions of the play and the restrictions are daunting. I’m just now opening my eyes behind my dark glasses a bit. I used a blindfold for a few rehearsals.
Intermission Impossible: Hamm's one of those roles like Hamlet, or Lear—- or like Willie Loman who you played not so long ago. It's considered to be a test great actors measure themselves against. How are you doing so far?
Ron Gephart: Trying to memorize the lines I haven’t had much time to become a Beckett scholar in any sense. I’d only seen the play once and I don’t remember ever reading it. As an actor I figured I’d be best off to learn the lines and make them true to Hamm. It seems to be the kind of play New Moon should be tackling. When Eastern was having difficulty casting the role, I agreed to step to the plate. The downside is that he lost about a week of rehearsal while trying to get it cast. Since I’m retired I could devote quite a bit of time to learning the part and I think we’ve come through with a decent production.
Directed by Eastern Hale
June 21, 22, 28, 29 & 30, 2013
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Last Sunday, June 30 at 2:00 pm
Tickets: $15 Adults, $12 Seniors, Students & Military