By Alyssa Mulligan
Actor Conor Lovett began reading Beckett at the age of eighteen. Shortly thereafter, he performed the role of Hamm in Endgame. And his love for the 20th century writer didn’t stop there… Today Conor is considered by many to be “the definitive Beckett performer,” bringing the culture of Ireland to cities around the world with his wife and director, Judy Hegarty Lovett. The actor-and-director married duo are the joint artistic directors of the Irish theatre company Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland (GSLPI). In fact, their theatre company has an extensive repertoire of Beckett works including nine prose pieces.
GSLPI grew from the original Gare St. Lazare Players, an international theatre company founded by Bob Meyer in 1983. Meyer’s company was first based in Chicago, and then found a new home base in Paris in 1988. Judy joined the company in 1991 as assistant to the Artistic Director, and a year later Conor joined the group as a performer. In 1996, Judy and Conor founded the Irish branch of the company with the intent to increase the Irish cultural footprint on a global scale. GSLPI continues to premiere their performances in Ireland and then tour internationally, having showcased their work in over twenty countries.
After their success with adapting the work of Beckett, the pair set their sights on an American piece: Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville. Neither Judy nor Conor had actually read the novel until a couple of years ago. Connor explains, “Judy read it and immediately was taken by the confessional nature, which she thought would work well onstage with one person.” So they set to work, paring down the lengthy narrative into a one-man show, while still staying true to the writer’s voice. In a recent article, Conor describes the process of adapting the works of past writers: “Gare St. Lazare’s vision is about making the text your own so that you perform it as if it is your words, your story, your truth. In this way the actor and director appear to disappear and the audience is left, we hope, with a direct link to the writer.”
What is next for GSLPI? Well for starters, the newest addition to their repertoire is a play written specifically for the company by American playwright Will Eno, who has been deemed “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.” Title and Deed, a new play about “finding your place in the world” had its premiere at the Kilkenny Arts Festival this past summer. Conor says, “[Eno] knows our work very well, and he knows how Judy and I operate and he knows what we’re interested in. He’s written something that’s right up our street.” Title and Deed is set to play in NYC next spring, as Judy and Conor continue to deliver powerful works to the world at large.
Be sure to catch the tale of Moby Dick as told by Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland NOV 7th-12th in the Jackie Liebergott Black Box in The Paramount Center!