Student theatre company GUTS will not be allowed to perform the play Waiting for Godot at Groningen cultural centre Usva. The reason is that the company only auditioned men for the play’s five male roles.
GUTS, which has been rehearsing for the play since November and was going to perform it in March, was informed of the decision last week. As far as Usva is concerned, auditioning only men is at odds with the university’s diversity policy.
Waiting for Godot is a renowned absurdist play from the twentieth century, written by Irish writer, playwright, and poet, Samuel Beckett. The play involves the protagonists, two men, waiting for Godot, who never shows up. In the meantime, they have various existential discussions. Occasionally, they are joined by some other men.
Before his death, Beckett recorded a clause that stated that everyone performing the play should do so in strict accordance with his instructions. This not only applies to the staging of the play, but also to who is allowed in the cast. In this case, it’s only men.
Anyone disobeying this runs the risk of being sued by the foundation in charge of Beckett’s rights.
‘I only found out about the clause just before the pitch deadline, and there wasn’t much I could do about it’, says director Oisín Moyne.
In GUTS, the entire member group votes on the play the company will perform. ‘We weren’t happy with the foundation’s rules, but we did want to give people the opportunity to vote on the play. It’s an important and still relevant piece.’
The theatre association’s members voted in favour of putting on Waiting for Godot in spite of the strict clause. In November, there was a call for actors and crew to audition. And while the call for actors was for men only, the one for crew wasn’t.
The theatre company is especially frustrated that the play is being cancelled a month before it’s supposed to go on. According to Fay Sterken, chair of the Usva student board, the board only found out about the all-male audition two weeks ago.
‘We received the subsidy application, which prompted us to look into the project’, she says. That’s when the board found out that GUTS signed the ‘all-male clause’. ‘We were appalled. It goes against all our principles.’
Usva boss Bram Douwes fully supports the student board’s decision. ‘Obviously we have no say in the play itself, that’s none of our business’, he says.
‘If it concerned a play with five white guys that they’d held open auditions for, everything would have been fine. But you can’t ban people right from the start.’ That is at odds with the university’s inclusivity policy, says Douwes.
Cast and crew
‘In doing so, Usva says the cast is the most important part of the project’, says Medeea Anton, producer for the GUTS play. ‘But that’s not true. The crew are the ones that truly make this project work. They produce it, make the costumes, the sets. We have a crew of eighteen people. Most of them are part of the LGBTQ community, and not male.’
The play’s producers are working hard to find a new venue to perform in. ‘Our priority is to make sure that our team’s work wasn’t for nothing’, says director Moyne. ‘Since Usva used the inclusivity clause to ban us, I hope they’ll use the three days we were supposed to perform to organise something related to theatre and inclusivity.’