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Beckett Festival a waste of talent

It’s time for my annual Ernest Hemmings scolding.

When I arrived Oct. 16 to cover the opening of the sixth annual Beckett Festival (which allegedly runs through Nov. 15) I was greeted by a black, block sign on the outside of 1001 S. First St., which read, simply, "Beckett." Nice touch. When I walked in, I was even more astounded to see a huge warehouse, with multiple stages throughout. I didn’t much care for the show that night — "Guardians" by Peter Morris — because the acting and directing shortchanged an intriguing script. But you don’t expect everything at a festival to be a winner.

The next night, I saw a magnificent version of Harold Pinter’s "The Dumb Waiter" by Found Door. I couldn’t wait to see more.

But the trouble began the next day. I went to a 2 p.m. matinee of a Tennessee Williams double bill, to be performed by the Asylum. I waited 30 minutes for them to open their doors. And I reminded myself that this sort of stuff happened last year.

Deanne Grace, a stage manager working for the festival, told me later that the Asylum pulled out of the festival in early August. No announcement was made to the press, or on the festival Web site, until the last moment.

That evening, I saw Test Market’s "Waiting for Godot." I didn’t much like that either, mainly because Hemmings gave himself the lead role and directed as well. It was a vanity production. Hemmings has a habit of walking pigeon-toed whenever he plays an eccentric character, and his eyes never seem to be totally involved in the stage action. He needs a director to help shape his work.

I was told that night that "No Exit" scheduled for the next day, had been postponed a week. The Web site said nothing until the day of the show. Not only that, but the Web site was advertising a version of the script (called "Huis Clos") which the director himself told me weeks ago he had discarded. I complained to a festival assistant. The next morning Hemmings sent out a mass e-mail. It read, in part, "In case you don’t have … the ability to read, ‘No Exit’ has been postponed. … The schedule is constantly being updated."

That’s when I decided, no more Beckett Festival. I can’t plan my evening around a play that might or might not take place.

This sort of nonsense happens consistently with Test Market, and I won’t make the mistake of giving the Beckett Festival top priority again. Grace, as well as two directors, claim Hemmings wants to be a one-man operation and won’t delegate authority. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that. It’s made obvious by the work. And anyone who doesn’t know how to collaborate doesn’t know how to do theater. What a waste of talent.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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