Jim Beaver is internationally known for his starring roles in “Deadwood,” “Supernatural,” “Justified,” “The Ranch” and much more. He has joined forces with playwright Steve Nevil in the world premiere of “The Night Forlorn (or Waitin’ On Godsford”) at Theatre West directed by the talented Arden Teresa Lewis.
The reviews have been pouring in with superlatives i.e., “The clever dialogue is brought to life by the play’s director Arden Teresa Lewis who could not have been gifted with a more talented cast” -“A piece that is often lacking in Westerns was a shining beacon” – “Our prairie lights up with the arrival of all who give outstanding performances” – “this is one not to be missed” – “stand out performances from the instant the lights come up.”
I decided to further explore the journey with Jim and Steve as they shared their thoughts and experiences within their creative time together with Forlorn:
Steve, what was the driving force for you to write The Night Forlorn, and never give up on getting it on stage?
I’ve always be fascinated by “Waiting for Godot” ever since I was exposed to it in college. I heard the Camden recording years ago with Bert Lahr and E.G. Marshall and I’d seen the old tv kinescope from 1960 with Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith. But there was always something that seemed to be missing for me. Then when I saw some live productions in the last few years, I realized that audiences were feeling the same way–they could appreciate the piece but didn’t seem to be that emotionally involved. What I set out to do was re-imagine that whole scenario in the context of a western–because I love Westerns– and give the two characters a back story where the audiences would be more emotionally invested in these two lead characters as the play progressed. And my mentor, Herbert Berghof, the renowned acting teacher and director of the original Godot in New York, was very helpful early on in encouraging me to explore that idea of reinventing these two hobos as a couple of Forlorn cowpokes at a crossroads in their lives.
Jim, you have an extensive film and stage background. What made you excited about doing Perce in “The Night Forlorn (or Waitin’ On Godsford)?”
Steve Nevil’s sense of comedy in combination with an absurdity derived from, but not merely a copy of, that in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was what drew me to this play, along with my natural proclivity and fondness for the Western genre. An absurd cowboy comedy is my idea of heaven.
I understand, Steve, the talented Marvin Kaplan was one of your greatest cheerleaders to complete Forlorn and get it produced?
Marvin was only one of two people that I let read the finished script in its initial hour-long form. The play has a lot of comedy in it and I felt that Marvin, one of the great comic actors in film for six decades, would be a great person to scope out the comedic elements of the script and give me an idea if they played or if they were too heavy-handed or contrived. He was incredibly helpful as a dramaturg and helped me streamline some elements and embellish others to turn it into a full-length play. Marvin also understood that there is a vaudeville quality to these two fellows, a kind of throwback to Laurel and Hardy, and he really encouraged me to embrace that and the affection that these two have for each other. Marvin passed away a little over a year ago, but his Foundation has embraced this production and is helping to fund it with a grant, so I’m deeply grateful to him.
Jim, you have done so much in your career. What is the 40,000-foot view of your career that see as your greatest achievements?
As an actor, my role as Ellsworth on Deadwood, and the parts I played in The Lion in Winter and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof on stage are my proudest achievements. As a writer, my play Verdigris and my memoir Life’s That Way are works I’ll always point to if asked what makes me proud.
Steve, what were you looking for in selecting your director for your piece?
My intent was always to find a director who was in tune with actors, who understood how to communicate with them so that they’d feel free to explore the characters emotionally and not feel pressure to set a performance in stone too early in the rehearsal process. Arden Lewis is an incredible director with an innate sense of the text and how to deconstruct it, as well as a great eye for staging. She was absolutely crucial in the success of this production and I honestly might not have moved forward with it without her. I’d seen her incredible directorial work at Theatre West with “The Women,” “Thorn in the Family Paw,” and “Family Only,” and I felt she was the right person to take the reins on this piece. Plus, I’ve worked with her as an actor on stage and she absolutely understands the actor’s process and how to get the best from them in the shortest amount of time.
This is wonderful ensemble cast, as mentioned in all the reviews. Jim, have you worked with any of these stellar actors before The Night Forlorn?
I’ve worked with everyone in The Night Forlorn before except for June Schreiner, some of them many times. My buddy Tom Allard and I first worked together in King Lear 46 years ago, and J. Downing and I have appeared in films together and been close friends dating back to the mid-1980s. This is our first time on stage together, though.
Also, Jim…Steve Nevil has written many brilliant lines in this wonderful play. What would be one or two or your favorites?
It’s not possible to sort out my favorite lines in this play. Every line in it is a gem, as far as I’m concerned.
Jim Beaver as Perce and J. Downing as Elvin. Photo by Garry Kluger
Everyone is raving about this show Steve and they want to send their friends. If someone “doesn’t know Godot,” how would you suggest they describe The Night Forlorn to them?
I think anyone who sees The Night Forlorn is going to come away with their own ideas about what the play is about. I would say that while Waiting for Godot appears to have been written with the intent of advocating Beckett’s idea that there really is no God–The Night Forlorn takes a different tack. It not only presupposes that God does exist but presents the idea that events in our lives are not pre-ordained and that we are in control of our own destiny–God will help us out, but he–or she–is not going to do it for us. We have to make our own choices and we’re responsible for those choices. That’s the dilemma that Percy and Elvin, these two cowpokes of our story, find themselves in. Hopefully, audiences will be entertained by the play and end up talking about it well after the curtain call. That’s my hope, anyway.
Jim Beaver as Perce,Leslie Caveny asPatsyand June Schreiner as Tag. Photo by Garry Kluger.
“The Night Forlorn (or Waitin’ on Godsford)”
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd.
March 16- April 22, 2018 – Fri & Sat at 8:00, Sun at 2:00
$25 General Seating; Seniors: $15; Students: $10 with I.D.
RESERVATIONS: (323) 851-7977
ONLINE TICKETING: www.theatrewest.org
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