Interview with the Actors of Waiting for Godot

We interview Tom Steward and Fred Harlow of fruitlessmoon theatreworks' Waiting for Godot



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Waiting for Godot San Diego
Left: Tom Steward (Vladimir); Right: Joe Powers (Estragon)

We'll just keep waiting and waiting and waiting...

Until March 25th, that is, when fruitlessmoon theatreworks' production of Waiting for Godot opens at White Box Live Arts at NTC Liberty Station in San Diego. Waiting for Godot, a play by Irish writer Samuel Beckett, is a timeless story about two men, Estragon and Vladimir, who spend all of their time waiting for someone who ultimately never shows up. Waiting for Godot will be featured in our March issue of FINE (released tomorrow!), but until then, we have a sneak peek of Waiting for Godot straight from the actors' mouths. We spoke with Tom Steward (Vladimir) and Fred Harlow (Pozzo) about their experience with Godot, and we have the interviews here for you down below. Then, check back on March 13th for our feature article!

 

Tom Steward is an actor and writer who originates from the United Kingdom. For the last 8 years, Steward has taught Film and Television Studies at Platt College in San Diego. Other local productions that Steward has performed in include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sleuth, and Lone Star. In fruitlessmoon theatreworks production of Waiting for Godot, Steward plays Vladimir, one of the two characters stuck endlessly waiting for the arrival of Godot. FINE magazine spoke with Steward about the upcoming production.

I have to ask: how did you find your way to the US?

Steward: In a word: marriage. I met my wife while I was on vacation in San Francisco. We dated long-distance for a couple of years until I came here for a visit and proposed. We got married, and I’ve been here ever since. She had moved back to her hometown San Diego while we were dating, so this has become my home. Aside from the romance, I think I was always destined to live in the US.

I’m from a small town in the North West of England called Saddleworth but I’ve also lived in the British Midlands and London. I’ve been in the US for about three years now. This move has changed my life in other ways. After arriving in the US, I decided to return to acting after a decade-long break, and over the last two years I’ve been lucky enough to star in several short films, plays, and even TV pilots produced here in San Diego.

Were you familiar with Beckett's Waiting for Godot prior to being cast in it?

I was. As I was starting college, the Beckett on Film series – film versions of all nineteen of Samuel Beckett’s plays produced by Dublin Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan for Irish TV station RTE – was being broadcast on British television. I was starting to study theatre, and their version of Waiting for Godot opened my eyes to a different kind of stage drama, one that could say profound things about our world without necessarily having to strive for realism in the way they were presented.

Tell me about Vladimir. What traits are characteristic of him?

Vladimir (or Didi) is about as hard to describe as the landscape around him! He’s homeless, as far as we know, and spends his time in futile conversation with his companion Estragon (or Gogo) in some kind of wasteland to keep an appointment with a man called Godot, who never seems to turn up. We don’t know much about his past, except that he has lived a long life full of highs and lows, which has ended badly and left him mentally and physically scarred. He and Estragon are co-dependent, yet they also seem to hate the sight of each other and they sometimes slip in and out of each other characters. He’s a walking contradiction. Depressed and near-suicidal for much of the time, he remains remarkably optimistic about the prospects of Godot keeping his appointment - despite all evidence to the contrary - and bringing him and Estragon salvation. A man of blind faith, he also questions his place in the world existentially and is always searching for knowledge. He seems far less equipped than Estragon psychologically to deal with the darkness of existence and uses habit and routine to deny and intentionally forget the absurdity and horror of his situation.

 How did you prepare for this role?

Beckett is incredibly specific about wording, timing, gesture and movement, so it was important to have learnt all [of] those mechanically before rehearsals started. It’s very different from how you prepare for most roles, where typically you learn your lines as you rehearse and movements are motivated by characterization. In Waiting for Godot, what you say, when you say it, how and when you move is very controlled and inflexible, and you need to adjust your method as an actor to do justice to that. Patrick Stewart, who played Vladimir on Broadway, remarked that it was better to embrace the contradictions of the character than try to explain them. I think I agree, and as an actor you have turn off that part of your brain that wants to psychologically motivate every word or action, and play what is written whether it makes sense or not.