Jim Lichtscheidl (Vladimir) and Nathan Keepers (Estragon) in Waiting for Godot.
Photo by Dan Norman
For actors, preparation for a role starts long before the first day of rehearsal. There are lines to learn and characters to explore before the cast sits down with the director for the formal work of a show.
So what happens when, a week into the rehearsal process, the director asks the two leads to swap roles? Something good, in the minds of Nathan Keepers and Jim Lichtscheidl, the leads of the Jungle Theater's Waiting for Godot.
Originally, Lichtscheidl was to play Estragon and Keepers would be Vladimir in Samuel Beckett's iconic play.
"We switched at the end of the first week, just for fun to play at each other's parts, but it opened up the play for us in different ways," Keepers says.
Lichtscheidl performed in an earlier production of the play, playing Estragon. "Part of my challenge was entering this project with a fresh look," he says.
Also key to the production, directed by Jungle founder Bain Boehlke, was to not "weird it up," Lichtscheidl says. "Bain stressed the simple utterances of the characters. It's not Shakespeare. These are phrases and conversations we can have in the present day. That's why people are hesitant [to come to the show]. They think it is so existential and unattainable, but it is so much a snapshot of everyday life."
Throughout the process, the pair has been encouraged to "keep it as simple as possible. If it is ever a complicated choice, and we don't where it is coming from or why, we go for the simpler choice. The profundity lies in the simplicity of it," Keepers says.
"If the audience buys into the relationship we have onstage, the simple utterances become stronger. They recognize that relationship," Lichtscheidl says.
The pair have been friends for a number of years, though, apart from a tour with The Miser, they haven't spent much time together onstage.
For this production, they are joined by Allen Hamilton and Charles Schuminski as Pozzo and Lucky, the two other characters they meet while waiting.
"The play is hard no matter what. Finding the simple choice is usually hard, but you know that going in. The play isn't going to be the easiest times of your lives," Keepers says.
"Each time I do it I learn a little bit more. For me, it is very much a mirror held up to the audience. You are waiting for Godot or waiting in the line at the supermarket. What are the distractions and what do you do with your time? Some want to investigate it more. Some are content in their everyday life," Lichtscheidl says.
And the meaning? Who is the mysterious Godot?
"I like Beckett's comment that it is a play about waiting," Keeper says. "I like the mundane side of things. It opens up the poetry of it more. The language is stunning. The relationship of these two men who have been waiting for so long, for God or just some dude named Godot, is what's important."
IF YOU GO
Waiting for Godot
The Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis
Friday through September 30
For information, call 612.822.7063 or visit online.