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Ethan Hawke Waits for Godot, or for the Zoom Screen to Unfreeze

Scene 1

(A Zoom rehearsal for the New Group’s virtual production of “Waiting for Godot,” which premières this week. Ethan Hawke plays Vladimir. John Leguizamo plays Estragon. Hawke is goateed and in Brooklyn, where it’s afternoon. Leguizamo, in a Mets hat, is in a hotel in London, where it’s evening. The cast, in adjacent boxes, includes Wallace Shawn, as Lucky, and Tarik Trotter, from the Roots, as Pozzo. The director, Scott Elliott, watches the end of a run-through, before the play is filmed in the course of four days.)

HAWKE (Vladimir): Well, shall we go?

LEGUIZAMO (Estragon): Yes, let’s go.

(They do not move.)

ELLIOTT: Thank you, guys. That had a really good pace. A couple of things that I jotted down. Wally, those moments around dropping the bag—I think we have to go through when you’re standing and when you’re sitting, because that moment lost its potency. Tarik, for your big speech, is there a way to set up junk in front of you on the computer, so you can swipe something off during that moment? You’re muted, Tarik.

TROTTER (Unmutes.): Yeah, I can set some stuff up.

ELLIOTT: Beautiful speech, Ethan, the direct address. I was thinking, Boy, am I ready to stop watching this on Zoom. It’s going to be so different on real cameras, with lighting. The Zoom of it all is getting a little tiresome.

SHAWN (to the associate director): Monet, can we talk for five minutes about standing and sitting? That’s the only thing I have to do in the play, but I’ve screwed it up.

Scene 2

(A different Zoom room, later. Tech break. Leguizamo is waiting for Hawke.)

LEGUIZAMO: We’ve just been doing camera setup. It’s tricky, man. I’m not a technician, but I’m doing sound, lighting. I’ve got to change everything to British plugs. It’s intense. Ethan asked me to be a part of this. Being in lockdown, we’ve lost a sense of whether it’s Monday or Friday. It felt like Beckett asking the same things—What day is it? Is this where we were supposed to be? When is he coming? Is he coming?

HAWKE (entering): Yo, sorry. I was on the other Zoom link. Did you do your camera test, John?

LEGUIZAMO: Couldn’t finish. I have to go back.

HAWKE: Fuck.

LEGUIZAMO: Your pad looks dope.

HAWKE: This is my son’s room. It’s been adapted into a post-apocalyptic bunker. Cool, right? (He tilts the lens up. A set has been delivered: ghost lights, wood-burning stove.) This has been the strangest project I’ve ever endeavored in my life. We started in, what, July? June? John and I got together, just Zoomin’ each other, reading “Godot.” We’ve been running with it, but the goddam thing has ballooned and taken over my life.

LEGUIZAMO: He’s not kidding.

HAWKE: One of the things about running these lines—have you noticed this, John?—is that all of my life now sounds like the dialogue. “What’s for dinner?” “What did we have last night?” “I don’t remember.” I find Zoom alienating in general. You’re connected to people, but you’re not connected. That’s why I first started thinking about Beckett, because I had these Zoom meetings, and they seemed like a Beckett play.

LEGUIZAMO: It’s been really good for “Godot,” because Zoom makes you have to be more honest than the stage. It’s all closeups. You can’t lie.

HAWKE: The play’s usually full of physical comedy—slapping each other, rolling in the dirt together—and we have to use the fact that we can’t touch. (They “kiss” through the screen.)

LEGUIZAMO: Here, take my glasses. (He holds his glasses to the camera and Hawke pretends to receive them, a continent away. They laugh.)

ELLIOTT (entering): How did I get in here? I didn’t mean to come to this Zoom. I don’t even know how I clicked on this. Goodbye! (Exits.)

HAWKE (putting on a red bowler hat): John and I are both pretty restless. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually been bored. You’re looking at one of our ways of coping with boredom—we made ourselves memorize fucking eighty pages of babble. I think once we get going, we’ll get into a groove.

LEGUIZAMO: Slow it down, speed it up. Make it friendly, make it aggressive.

HAWKE: I thought you were really good today, but I felt out of it.

LEGUIZAMO: I thought you were amazing. I was out of it. I was, like, I just can’t connect today. I just can’t . . . I felt so out of it, man. . . .

(They do not move.) ♦

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