In the lead-up to the 2010 Time-Based Art Festival, Artistic Director Cathy Edwards will be posting about some of the artists, projects, and ideas that inspire her in this year’s program. She’ll start off her preview posts with her discovery of Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, who will perform two works during the first half of TBA:10.
Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, First Love. Photo: Ros Kavanagh.

When I began putting together the program for TBA:10, one project in particular lived with me from the start. I first encountered the Gare St. Lazare Players in Dublin in the fall of 2008, when I met Conor Lovett at an international theater meeting. Lovett had a spare and observant manner, a self-effacing demeanor, and a certain glint in his eye that spoke of boundless knowledge and commitment. His presence led me to accept an invitation to an 11 am showing of his Beckett work at Dublin’s Project Art Centre (though I confess I had no identifiable desire to revisit Samuel Beckett). After watching his performance of Beckett’s First Love, I was changed. I had a deeper and more complex understanding of theater; of Beckett’s writing; and of the depth of craft, preparation, and commitment that is involved in staging an encounter between body and language, between actor and material. This wonderfully influential experience convinced me that it would be fundamental to bring Lovett and the Gare St. Lazare Players to Portland and the TBA Festival.

Samuel Beckett as a historical figure presents an interesting conundrum when contemplating a contemporary festival and PICA’s commitment to engaging with “the arts of our time.” Simultaneously, however, Beckett clarifies a great deal–when an artist is truly revolutionary, that artist changes the fabric of experience, interpretation and language in ways that are fertile and provocative for generations to come. The genius of Beckett’s authenticity, of his portrayal of the paradoxes and absurdities of life, of the desolation and isolation embodied in his writing, and of the opacity of character and plot in his work, are continual sources, inspirations, and challenges to artists working today.
Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett (the company’s director) are–quite simply–the world’s foremost interpreters of Beckett’s prose works. The experience of being in the theater with Lovett and a Beckett text is awe-inspiring, revelatory, and intensely personal. Lovett fully brings to life all of Beckett’s directness, accessibility, literary craft, haunting psychology, and existential questions. First Love is a masterpiece of solo performance married to a text that is replete with all the absurdities, tragicomedy, and black humor of Beckett’s early prose.
As part of the TBA Festival, Gare St. Lazare Players will present two works: First Love, and a one-night engagement of The Beckett Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies & The Unnamable. Seeing First Love is essential to this year’s TBA experience; it is indescribable to be in the theater with Lovett and Beckett. Coming back to see The Beckett Trilogy will be a theatrical opportunity that those who have experienced First Love will not want to miss. These performances bring together past and present, language and actor, reflection and the unmediated experience in a way that every theatergoer will experience as profound.