The AP Literature class is “Waiting for Godot”

It was not necessarily a day we were all waiting for—January 13th—the transition from holiday mode back to school mode. It is a jolt. For the high school AP Literature students the day meant Waiting for Godot.  Their second semester began with this tragicomedy by the Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett. Instead of starting with reading the play, they worked in groups of two or three and made short films of 4-page sections—fragments of the whole.  Then, we lined the clips up in a YouTube Playlist and watched the full student performance of the play—65 students from 4 sections of the course. A fragmented immersion became a unified whole.

Next we read the play and watched a professionally produced film. Then we used Google Hangouts and chatted with Hugo Armstrong who was in LA.  Hugo, friend of the ASIJ community and star of last year’s Ricketson Theater production of “8”, had played the role of Lucky about two years ago in the Mark Taper Forum production of Waiting for Godot. Hugo was animated and passionate, answering student questions about the meaning of the play, even reading at one point Lucky’s famous monologue.

Later the same day we gathered in the BlackBox and heard Dr. Andy Fitzsimons, a professor of Irish Literature. Dr. Fitzsimons’ presentation was scholarly and challenging, so dense in fact that several students went back to the ASIJ TV site to review it and take notes. On the final day of our Beckett study, students generated 100 thoughts about the play, preparing for their written assignment. In the homestretch we teachers stopped waiting for Godot and started waiting for the 65 essays about the play in which nothing happens, twice. (Karen Noll, HS English)

“Listening to Hugo speak about his personal experiences and interpretations of the play provided us with invaluable insight.  His perspective as a professional actor greatly influenced my understanding of Beckett’s intent.” – Sumika Davidson, grade 12

“Our non-linear style of approaching Waiting for Godot  certainly felt unconventional, but it definitely paid off in the end. While it took a while to digest, finding the meaning of the play–or rather, the lack thereof–was an oddly satisfying experience.” – Kai McGuire, grade 12

Student work:

Hugo Armstrong Youtube discussion (both sessions): 

(class #1) at 4:36 Hugo talks about auditioning for the role and then what it was like to work Barry Mandel who had worked with Beckett, and Barry McGoven.

Student responses to talking with Hugo immediately after the Hangout out: