Friday, November 3, 2006

Samuel Beckett in Today's Cultural Climate, November 13

Chestertown, MD, November 2, 2006 — In the last of a series of four events celebrating the centenary of the birth of Irish writer Samuel Beckett, Washington College's Sophie Kerr Committee presents "Beckett after Beckett," a lecture by theater critic Jonathan Kalb, Monday, November 13, at 4:30 p.m. in the Sophie Kerr Room of the Miller Library. The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.

In his lecture, Kalb will argue that, in the 17 years since Samuel Beckett's death, the Western society that so honored him during his lifetime has grown more worldly, more consumerist, more celebrity-obsessed, more enamored of speed, glut and glamour, and more immersed in compulsive trivialization. In recent years, the overwhelming nature of this process has been reflected in the mixed results of many Beckett performances. Kalb's lecture will examine this evolution and will consider what place still exists for the artistic dissent and resistance associated with Beckett in the current cultural environment.

A professor and chair of the theater department at Hunter College of the City University of New York, Jonathan Kalb is also a member of the theater Ph.D. faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center and editor of, The Hunter On-Line Theater Review. In 1991, he won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, the country's richest and most prestigious prize for a theater critic, for his first book, Beckett in Performance(Cambridge University Press) and his articles and reviews in The Village Voice. Kalb was a regular theater critic for The Village Voice from 1987-1997 and the chief theater critic for New York Press from 1997-2001.

He has published dozens of essays, articles, interviews, and other writings in such journals as The New York Times, The Nation, Salmagundi, Modern Drama, Theater Journal, Theater, Performing Arts Journal, TDR, Theater Heute, The Threepenny Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, New German Critique, TheatreForum, American Theatre, as well as in numerous books. Two book collections of Kalb's critical writing have been published: Free Admissions: Collected Theater Writings (Limelight Editions, 1993) and Play By Play: Theater Essays and Reviews, 1993-2002 (Limelight Editions, 2003). In the late 1980s, Kalb was awarded a Fulbright Grant to Germany and lived in West Berlin for two years, where he began to write about German theater.

His book The Theater of Heiner Müller—the first general study in English about the most important German playwright after Brecht—was published by Cambridge University Press in 1998 and reissued as a revised and enlarged paperback by Limelight Editions in Fall 2001.

The reading is sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee, which works to carry on the legacy of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich Washington College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor" and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications.

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