Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days" produced for television
In December 1998, the Department collaborated in the Television Center's production of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. The Department's Andrea Hawks and Saul Spicer together worked at translating the play for television, and following a successful three-week run on stage in Manhattan (for which the Center's George Casturani designed and built the set), the production was brought out to Brooklyn College, where a crew of MFA students and Center/Department staff recorded the piece over a two-day period.
Happy Days (1961) was written in Paris, where Beckett had served in the Resistance during the war, and to where he had returned following the city's liberation in 1945. Although Waiting for Godot (1952) had brought him worldwide acclaim, he continued to work in seclusion, even after winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969. He died in Paris on December 22, 1989.
As he had done in so many of his stage works, Beckett again explored the meaning of existence, time, memory and the human condition by presenting a bare, stark tableau: Winnie, buried up to her waist in a mound of earth, inexorably follows the daily routine of life with the help of the few possessions left in her bag - a toothbrush, mirror, revolver, handkerchief and a pair of spectacles - and the knowledge (hope?) that her only companion, Willie, is still alive behind the mound. Her days are regulated by a bell that sounds to indicate day and night (to speak, as Winnie notes, "in the old style"); and on the rare occasions that her monologue manages to prompt a reply from the unseen Willie, she declares "Oh this is a happy day, this will have been another happy day! After all. So far."
Happy Days has attracted a long and distinguished line of actresses to the role of Winnie, beginning with Ruth White, who performed in the world premiere at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York (under the direction of Alan Schneider,) to Madeleine Renaud, Eva Katerina Schultz, Peggy Ashcroft, Irene Worth, and Billie Whitelaw. The present production, under the direction of Robert Engstrom, features Suzann O'Neill as Winnie and Peter Glenn Niles as Willie.
The television production received its premiere public screening at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College on April 28, 1999. The program received its New York cable premiere on CUNY TV, the City University's cable network, on Sunday June 25, 2000.