Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Endgame/Act Without Words

Manuscripts | Publications | Productions | Reviews


figures 13, 14, 15

Typed letter, signed, from Jeremy Nussbaum, for Greenbaum, Woolf & Ernst, to George Reavey, 12 March 1973, 5pp., with photocopies of two typed letters, signed, from Robert P. Levine, for Hellerstein, Rosier & Rembar, to André Gregory and Billy Rose Foundation, 7 and 13 February 1973, 2 pp.

André Gregory’s acting company, “Manhattan Project,” applied for and received on 20 July 1972 licenses from Samuel French, Inc., to produce Endgame for both theater-festival performances at Lennox, in the Berkshires, and off-off Broadway. The strange chicken-wire set, added dialogue, and other departures from Beckett’s concept caused Barney Rosset, Beckett’s American publisher at Grove Press, to demand, through his lawyers, that this “distorted version” of Endgame be closed down on the ground that it “contains material and music that destroy the intent and character of the original play.”

Mr. Nussbaum’s detailed reply gives a step-by-step account of the expression of differences by the two parties—including threats that came to nothing: “it would be most helpful if the situation could be explained to Mr. Beckett, with particular emphasis on how the erstwhile foe of censorship, Mr. Rossett [sic], has strayed from those principles he claimed to take so seriously.”

The reviews of the Manhattan Project production ranged from “I love” (Clive Barnes) to “loose, inventive only at a rather childish level, seriously interruptive (Beckett’s own rhythms are destroyed) and, I would say, impertinent” (Walter Kerr).

Although Beckett disapproved of the “distorted version,” he decided, in view of the cost and effort that had gone into it, to let it continue for the period for which it had been licensed.


figure 16

Photograph of Alan Schneider rehearsing Endgame for the 1958 off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre production, with Alvin Epstein as Clov, Nydia Westman as Nell, P.J. Kelly as Nagg, and Boris Tumarin in the role (Hamm) created by Lester Rawlins.

figure 17

Photograph by Gjon Mili of Lester Rawlins as Hamm and Alvin Epstein as Clov in Endgame at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 1958.




figure 18

Photograph of Hume Cronyn in Act Without Words, performed for the Samuel Beckett Festival which opened on 20 November 1972 in The Forum Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City.