For her senior thesis project, third-year adolescent education major Anna Benlien is writing, producing and directing a play that has been set to debut on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 at 7 P.M. in College Hall. She is calling it “Waiting for Summer: A Tragic Two Act Play.”
In her first semester at SUNY New Paltz, she took the class called “Individual and Society,” in which she read Samuel Beckett’s 1948 tragicomedy play “Waiting for Godot.” It was through his themes of waiting, hope and despair that she found inspiration for her play.
“As I was reading the play, I thought to myself ‘how many people wait for a job or a person or a relationship or an opportunity that might never show up in their lives,” says Belien. “I think these themes really translate to today, because I feel like a lot of people wait for these elements of their life that have just passed on. Why wait for something to take place if it’s not already present in your life? It’s the idea of wasting time.”
In Beckett’s play, two men named Vladimir and Estragon wait on a park bench for a third man named Gadot to show up, which he never does. On the park bench, they talk about their miseries in life and even consider hanging themselves, but they both believe that Gadot’s arrival will save them from their troubles.
Though some people see this play as a story in which nothing happens, others see it as a comment on the mundane, pointless and repetitive nature of modern day life. Since Vladimir and Estragon’s conversations also air toward religious and existential topics, there’s even an argument to be made that Godot represents God, and that him not showing up is representative of promised salvation that is never given.
Benlien took the ideas present in Beckett’s play and translated them to a hopelessly romantic story about two people who have loved each other since childhood but can’t seem to be in the right place at the right time in order to make their relationship work. “Waiting for Summer” consists of two nameless characters and a narrator, so Belien refers to the two main characters lovingly as “Him” and “Her.”
“Her is definitely more somber at the beginning of the play,” says Benlien. “But she definitely breaks into her own. You see her own character development through the play. She definitely is witty. She’s a little confrontational. She is a little untrusting, but she also has this child-like, youthful perspective on life. She is scared of change, and she just really wants everything to go back to the way that she envisioned it when she was a kid.”
“And then there’s Him,” says Benlien. “He’s an accountant, so he’s a little more on the snobby and stuck-up side. But when he was a kid, he wanted to be a writer. So he took this profession as an accountant because he wanted job security. He’s definitely the kind of person who isn’t going to go for his dreams and aspirations, because he’s scared; he wants something more secure in life. Throughout the play, and by talking to Her, you’ll see him unlock this childlike character that’s definitely been buried or he has locked away for a long time.”
Benlien has said that she created these characters out of idealization, but also closely related to those in “Waiting for Godot.” She has also said that she found a lot of inspiration in Taylor Swift lyrics that helped her envision the personalities for these characters.
“Something that was a struggle for me getting into the psyche of the characters I was writing about,” says Benlien. “ I really wanted to make sure that everything was translated the way that I wanted it to, and also making sure that I was foreshadowing a lot of things that I wanted to show later in my play to add depth to it.”
As of right now, the play has already been casted and is currently in rehearsal. “Her” is being played by Kyra Saffon, “Him” is being played by Michael Puglisi, and the Narrator will be played by Sky Rolnik. Make sure to make your calendars for Dec. 15 and 16!