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Two-time Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon stars in the new production of "Waiting for Godot" at the Theatre for a New Audience

Michael Shannon (left) and Paul Sparks star as "Estragon" and "Vladimir" in the new production of Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn
Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn
Michael Shannon (left) and Paul Sparks star as "Estragon" and "Vladimir" in the new production of Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn

Two-time Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon plays the role of "Estragon" in the new production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn.

Shannon, one of the most recognized actors on stage, film and television joined WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about the show and his latest projects.

Actor Michael Shannon joins WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about the new production of Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn
Doug Doyle/Zoom
Actor Michael Shannon joins WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about the new production of Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn

In this new production, Shannon is reunited with his friend and fellow actor Paul Sparks. The two worked together at the Theatre for a New Audience's production of The Killer in 2014. Shannon says the rapport he has with Sparks is a special one.

"I've know Paul a very long time. We've done a lot of projects together. Sometimes in life you just crossed paths with somebody that just seems like you've been connected from a past life. It's a deep connection. I really trust him. You know when you are out on stage with one other person doing material this complicated and difficult, you want to be able to look across the stage at the other person and say this person has got my back, and I got their back and no matter what happens we are going to get through it. I feel that way with Paul."

Michael Shannon (left) and Paul Sparks star in the new production of Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn
Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn
Michael Shannon (left) and Paul Sparks star in the new production of Waiting for Godot at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn

Even though the play was first performed on stage in 1953, Shannon says the words and meanings of Irish novelist Samuel Beckett are more timely than ever.

"This is a very interesting play to be doing post-pandemic. Honestly, we were supposed to do the play at the beginning of the pandemic and had to postpone the production. We feel that postponement kind of added fuel to the fire, waiting to do Waiting for Godot. I would maintain the play is a masterpiece. But like with most great works of art, it contains everything. You can find anything in it. It's not like some plays where you're trying to maintain something and make sure that everybody who comes to see it is seeing the same thing and you're just hitting your marks and saying your lines the right way. It's really an opportunity to search for something, search for meaning and search for truth. I find it so timely, frankly, which again is an aspect of great works of art, is that they always seem like they were written yesterday. There's so many references to mortality and violence. I see so much of that in the world right now. There's so much unrest. I feel like like this play, as much as it has a reputation for rife with despair and bleakness, is actually very hopeful. It kind of has a healing property to it."

Godot is directed by Arin Arbus (Resident Director, TFANA) whose critically acclaimed productions for the company include her OBIE Award-winning staging of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth.

"I love her. She directed Broadway's Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune (starring Shannon and Audra McDonald in the 2020 Tony Award-nominated play). She also directed a play at Theatre for a New Audience last year called Des Moines. Her approach to the material was just so brilliant. All she wanted to do is to make Waiting for Godot as clear, accessible and approachable as possible. She really pushed us to not take anything for granted."

The multi-talented Shannon says working at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn continues to be a joy.

"I love doing shows on Broadway and going to the big city but I also love being able to walk to work. I really love this theater. I love the space, the Polonsky Shakespeare Center where it's located. It's a beautiful theater that's perfectly designed acoustically. I really appreciate the man who built it and who runs the Theatre for a New Audience, Jeffrey Horowitz. He gave us permission to do this."

Shannon is also an accomplished musician and singer and has his own rock band. In this interview, he talks about why he felt it was important to sing live during his portrayal of county music star George Jones in the hit Showtime series George and Tammy.

"I felt like so much of the story between George Jones and Tammy Wynette existed in the music and existed in the way they performed with one another."

Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon star as country singers Tammy Wynette and George Jones in SHOWTIME's George and Tammy
SHOWTIME
Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon star as country singers Tammy Wynette and George Jones in SHOWTIME's George and Tammy

"Music is my first love. It's what I'm really passionate about. There was a fork in the road when I was a kid. I could have perhaps wound up going down the music road instead."

One of the jazz songs that reminds Shannon of Waiting for Godot is the Sonny Rollins tune "East Broadway Rundown."

Waiting for Godot has been extended through December 17.

You can SEE the entire interview with Michael Shannon here.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.