Directors tackle Charlie Brown, Godot

Be it bringing the Peanuts comic strip to life, or bringing life to the experience of waiting, first-time directors Patrick Burgwinkle and Ellen Barr agree: Directing is hard.

“It’s definitely a lot harder than it looks,” Burgwinkle said of his experience directing “Waiting For Godot,” the 1940s play by Irish writer Samuel Beckett, which presents two characters waiting for another named Godot. The show will be presented through the Fourteenth Grade Players this weekend in the Lisner downstage.

Barr echoed his sentiments. “It’s a lot of work,” she said of directing the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” an interpretation of the classic comic strip by Charles Schulz, presented this weekend by Forbidden Planet Productions in the Mitchell Hall theater. She added, “You don’t realize how much it is until you’ve realized you haven’t slept in a week because all you can think about is your show.”

Barr, a junior, said a friend suggested “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” when she was searching for the right show to direct last summer.

“I chose to do that show because it was a favorite of mine as a kid,” she said, adding that a production of the musical she attended as a child influenced her set design.

“They used blocks and moved them around in a way that is similar to that way we do for my production,” she said.

Burgwinkle, a senior, has never seen a production of “Waiting for Godot,” though he considers Beckett’s play – a classic for theater enthusiasts – to be inspiration alone.

“The text itself was its own inspiration. It’s a favorite play of mine and I’d always imagined I could put on an interesting production of it,” he said, characterizing both the setting and language of the play as minimalist and the work itself as existential.

“It deals with the search for meaning in people’s lives,” he said, adding that the work offers moments of comedy and tragedy.

Barr indicated that her rendition of “Charlie Brown” is a comedy.

The cast, she said, is a group of six – two sophomores, two seniors, a junior and a grad student, all of whom who have previously performed with the University theater community – who will take on the roles of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Schroeder.

Barr herself has worked exclusively with Forbidden Planet Productions and is a current member of the Forbidden Planet board. She expressed commitment to the group.

“I’ve worked on every FPP show since spring semester of freshman year. It’s been my home since freshman year,” she said.

Both directors justified the significance of their respective plays.

“It’s a show where everyone can see it and walk out with a different interpretation of it. It’s very, very open and I think the audience will really enjoy that experience,” Burgwinkle said.

Barr said her production is accessible, giving a nod to the popular comic strip the musical is based on.

She added, “Who doesn’t love the Peanuts?”

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” presented by Forbidden Planet Productions, will run from Friday, April 17 through Sunday April 19 in the Mitchell Hall theater. “Waiting for Godot,” presented by Fourteenth Grade Players, will run from Thursday, April 16 through Saturday, April 18 in Lisner Downstage. Tickets for each performance are $5.

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