EgoPo announces three powerhouse veterans taking on Beckett’s infamous Rockaby

-Courtesy of Perpetual Motion PR

EgoPo Classic Theater announces the cast for their live solo-audience, walk-up window production of Samuel Beckett’s intensive 10-minute classic, Rockaby. EgoPo’s version of this famed, one-woman show welcomes a powerhouse trio of Cathy Simpson, Melanie Julian, and Karen Vicks. Each performer will play to an audience of ONE at a time, peering through a house window in one of three different neighborhoods across the city in a COVID-safe event. Rockaby’s Philadelphia mini-tour will take place March 10th-21st, 2021, with locations in Point Breeze, Passyunk Crossing, and East Oak Lane.

All three performers are Philadelphia locals with extensive credits both in and out of the city.  Cathy Simpson, a celebrated Philadelphia veteran actor, was last seen on EgoPo stages as “Halie” in last season’s Buried Child and has local credits including Arden, Wilma, and Philadelphia Theatre Company.  Melanie Julian played the titular characters in EgoPo’s Jesse James and The Lydie Breeze Trilogy, and “Arkadina” in the Barrymore Award-winning production of The Seagull.  Karen Vicks is a Barrymore Award-winning performer, with credits both onstage at Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Delaware Theatre Company, and on film and television series’ “Veep,” “The Wire,” and “Dispatches from Elsewhere”.  Rockaby will be directed by both EgoPo’s Artist in Residence, Damien J. Wallace, and Founding Artistic Director, Lane Savadove and is being performed with the permission of both Actor’s Equity and the Beckett Estate.

Rockaby premiered in 1981 at SUNY Buffalo directed by the great Beckett interpreter, Alan Schneider, in celebration of Beckett’s 75th Birthday.  At the time Mel Gussow wrote in the NY Times: “The play lasts only 15 minutes, but by any measure other than length this is a major dramatic event, evocatively encapsulating – in words and in visual metaphor – the perdurability of the human spirit…” Since that time some of the greatest actresses in the prime of their careers have taken on this soul-searching dramatic piece.

“This piece is deeply personal for me.  I first fell in love with theater when my father (insanely) took me to see Rockaby as a young teenager.  Then, when covid shut down our theaters, and our front doors, this piece immediately came to mind as an essential theatrical experience.  A woman, solitary in her house, looking out her window for other women, also solitary in their houses.  All of us so desperately in need of human connection – each house on my street containing a vibrant life drama – each separate and isolated.  Could we for a moment look into each other’s worlds and feel less alone?  Thus… Rockaby for an audience of one,” says Lane Savadove.

In EgoPo’s version, audiences choose between the three actors each performing in a private home.  In the process, they choose a neighborhood.  On the day of performance, they are directed to a street corner in their chosen neighborhood. There, they are led down a block or alleyway to a chair that awaits them in front of a nondescript window.  They put on disposable headphones and the blinds raise to reveal Beckett’s magnetic theatrical event.

“As an intuitive emotional experience, ‘Rockaby’ is overpowering, hypnotizing the audience in its spotlighted gaze, but, in common with all of Beckett’s plays, it also has narrative and intellectual substance, some of it subliminal.” – NY Times

This is Wallace’s EgoPo directing debut, following his recent co-creation and performance in this season’s virtual adaptation, Underground. On Wallace, Savadove shares,

“At the end of my own mother’s life, she retreated inside her home, and my final months with her were through a window.  Beckett’s piece is not dramatic hyperbole, it is the desperate and intense reality for many, perhaps for all, as we reach the end of our days. I’ve always seen this piece as ferocious and touching and vulnerable.  And, in my mind, there is no better director/actor for grounding heightened text than Damien Wallace.  He is a master with Beckett and I am so honored to direct with him.  Having two directors will help make each of the women’s worlds completely distinct from each other, influenced by their unique personalities and unique neighborhoods.”

EgoPo has a rich history of producing works by Samuel Beckett in innovative ways including: Breath an evening of 9 Beckett short plays and prose (1994), Company created for NPR radio broadcast (1995) and later transformed into EgoPo’s longest running live performance with audiences blindfolded on their backs (San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Philly, Provincetown), a steam-punk influenced Waiting for Godot (2009), and Endgame set in a New Jersey basement (2010).

Beckett’s Rockaby is considered one of the pinnacles of avant-garde theater, distilling the human experience of loss, isolation, and desperation to connect with other humans into a potent 10-minute drama. It is the perfect anchor for EgoPo’s season which is mirroring our experiences of living during covid with innovative theatrical formats that allow us to experience theater safely.  In neighborhoods across our city, individuals have been trapped inside their homes for a year.  Death is omnipresent and the yearning for connection is tangible. Rockaby is a way of sharing this experience, while providing many audiences their first taste of live theater in over a year.

Joining Wallace and Savadove on the production team is Chris Sannino (Sound Designer), and EgoPo Associate Producer Dane Eissler (Production Designer). Stage Managers include Jamel Baker and Elizabeth Meisenzahl.  Support for Rockaby includes Season Sponsor The Wyncote Foundation, Production Sponsor The Judith Charles Memorial Fund, and Artist Sponsors the Charlotte Cushman Foundation, Dr. RJ Wallner, Rebecca Abgott, and Dr. Stephanie Creary.

Tickets for Rockaby go on sale for the public on Monday, February 22nd, 2021.  Tickets will cost $25 for the 10-minute viewing.  Guests will select a performance window by preferred neighborhood or performer during the purchase process.  A Rockaby Passport is available for $60 to witness all three distinct journeys of the isolated “Woman.”  The audience member will be sent a street corner destination, an arrival time, and a 10-minute slot assignment within 48 hours of their purchase by email. Once arrived at the designated street corner on the day of the performance, a masked guide will lead them to a single chair awaiting in front of a window.  They don disposable, single-use headphones and the blinds lift to reveal the woman in the rocking chair, isolated inside her home yearning for connection.   Audience members listen to the beautiful, hypnotic text while glimpsing her haunting journey without ever going inside, remaining distanced from any other people.

For more information about the experience and what to expect, visit www.egopo.org/rockaby or call 267-273-1414.

About Rockaby
This intimate piece takes place in three locations across the city, of which you will choose your preferred neighborhood.  Alone, you arrive at a street corner and are guided to a private residence where a single chair awaits facing a window shrouded by venetian blinds.  You take your seat, don headphones, and watch as the blinds slowly rise to reveal a woman inside, swaying in her rocker.  Her thoughts, in the form of Beckett’s text, enter directly into your ears, allowing your mind and hers to merge.  In EgoPo’s intensely intimate version of this famed avant-garde classic, solo audience members witness a haunting and hypnotic ten-minute journey of birth, death, and isolation.

EgoPo’s Isolations Season
EgoPo Classic Theater’s 2020-2021 Season of Isolations is a festival of four radically intimate theatrical events experienced in innovative socially distanced formats.   EgoPo saw social distancing as an opportunity to create new ways of experiencing and watching theater – sometimes even redefining what theater can be.   Each piece of this special season re-examines the interaction between audiences and performance, creating intensely intimate events that can be experienced safely in the midst of our ever-changing environment. The season reflects our communal experience of isolating over the last year by using the classic literary mode of the solitary artist choosing to live in self-imposed isolation in order to seek transformation.

In the Fall/Winter of 2020, EgoPo invited audiences to experience two original theater works from the safety of their homes.  Brenna Geffers and Natalia de la Torre’s Emily was a five-week mail event inspired by Emily Dickinson and was featured in American Theatre Magazine for its unique, play-by-mail format.  Underground was a virtual film event, created by EgoPo Associate Producer, Dane Eissler, and Philadelphia-based artist, Damien J. Wallace. Hailed as “captivating” and a “strong, unapologetic work of political theater” by Broadstreet Review, the multi platform event transformed Donstoyevsky’s 19th century novel into a modern-day tale through the eyes of a Black Man, with Philadelphia’s controversial racial history as the backdrop.  Samuel Beckett’s Rockaby is next up in this highly distanced season and will be presented one-on-one through the glass window of a house. The final event scheduled for April/May 2021 will be a drive-in version of Adam Rapp’s Nocturne. All four pieces are curated to provide an intensely human and connected experience while we continue to remain physically apart.

Read more about Rockaby, the cast, and purchase tickets here.

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