Breath – Samuel Beckett (June 16, 1969)

“As Samuel Beckett’s writing progressed through the ’60s, it became even more minimal, despairing, and bleak. It was as if he was paring away as much as he could to see if theater was left standing. If a painting could be one color like Ad Reinhardt, what would be the Reinhardt of theater? Jonathan Crow mentioned yesterday how Beckett’s 1969 play Breath, for instance, ‘runs just a minute long and features just the sound of breathing.’ There is a bit more to it than that. Not a lot more, but yes, more. Here’s the play’s script in full:


1. Faint light on stage littered with miscellaneous rubbish.  Hold for about five seconds.

2.  Faint brief cry and immediately inspiration and slow increase of light together reaching maximum together in about ten seconds.  Silence and hold about five seconds.

3.  Expiration and slow decrease of light together reaching minimum together (light as in I) in about ten seconds and immediately cry as before.  Silence and hold for about five seconds.

… The play came about when one of the most important English theater critics of his time Kenneth Tynan asked for short skits for an erotic revue he was putting on in 1969, called Oh! Calcutta. Others invitees included Jules Feiffer, John Lennon, Edna O’Brien, Jacques Levy, Sam Shepard, and Leonard Melfi. The plan was to perform each skit but keep each writer’s name a secret. …”
Open Culture: Take a “Breath” and Watch Samuel Beckett’s One-Minute Play (Video)
W – Breath

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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