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Written by Samuel Beckett Performed by Pan Pan Theatre Directed by Gavin Quinn

“ Do not imagine, because I am silent, that I am not present, and alive, to all that is going on.” —Maddy Rooney

Presenting Sponsor Performances for Young Audiences

Presenting Underwriter IRELAND 100

HRH Foundation

Performance Guide

Performance and Discussion


All That Fall

A Story Comes Out of the Theater in the Dark

Recurring Themes

Welcome to a different kind of theater. There is no stage and there are no actors—just rocking chairs, minimal lights, a recorded story, and most important, you and your imagination. You will experience All That Fall as the author intended it— as a radio play to be heard rather than seen. Prepare to listen actively, especially to the language of playwright Samuel Beckett, known for choosing his words carefully. Although not much action happens in the story, what the characters say and how they say it reveals volumes about their outlooks, anguish, yearnings, fears, contradictions—and sometimes darker sides.

Listen for a number of themes that recur in different ways throughout the play, including:

What Happens in the Story In a small Irish village, Maddy Rooney walks along a country road to the train station. There, Mrs. Rooney plans to surprise her blind husband Dan, who is arriving home from work. Maddy, who is ill and overweight, walks with great difficulty. Several townspeople stop to greet her and offer help, including Christy (who sells dung, or manure), Mr. Tyler, Mr. Slocum, and Miss Fitt. The train arrives uncharacteristically late, and as the Rooneys make their difficult journey home, Dan refuses to explain why. But as Maddy pursues the matter, it raises haunting questions. The cast, whose voices you’ll hear in All That Fall. All photos by Ros Kavanagh





Death—such as a hen killed on the road (foreshadowing a later tragedy), the poisonous Laburnum (pronounced luh-BUR-num) tree, and the doctor’s lecture about a girl who died Childlessness—such as Maddy’s losing her only child Minnie many years ago, the hinny (a cross between a male horse and a female donkey that cannot breed), and Mr. Tyler’s daughter’s operation that leaves her unable to have children Difficulty of Movement—such as Maddy and Dan’s laborious walking, the hinny’s refusing to move, and Mr. Tyler’s flat bicycle tire Time—such as Maddy’s worry about being late, the train’s unusual delay, and Maddy’s footsteps evoking the ticking of a clock

he Dark About the Playwright Samuel Beckett was born in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. Among many likely influences on his writing and outlook Samuel Beckett, 1906–1989 were his early friendship with Irish writer James Joyce, surviving a stabbing attack by a panhandler who later said he did not know why he did it, and narrowly escaping Nazi capture after joining the French Resistance to German occupation during World War II. After the war, Beckett wrote many works, including his most famous play, Waiting for Godot. His writing, which earned him the Nobel Prize in literature and which speaks to human despair but also resilience, forever changed modern theater.

Pushing Theatrical Boundaries After the brutality of World War II, a complex philosophical approach called Existentialism became popular. It stresses an individual’s responsibility for making choices and creating oneself in an often nonsensical world. An artistic outgrowth of that philosophy was “Theater of the Absurd,” where “absurd” means out of harmony or lacking purpose rather than “ridiculous.” Plays in this new genre surprised audiences with nonlinear plots, vague characters, and uncomfortable humor—a sense that anything or even nothing can happen. They also raised questions instead of providing answers and expressed an inability to make sense of human actions, choices, and indeed, life itself. Many of Beckett’s works feature these characteristics. Notably, however, All That Fall has a distinct town (resembling Beckett’s hometown) and more defined characters, such as the station master. But it still leaves audiences guessing. Regarding what happened on the train, Beckett is quoted as saying “…we don’t know, at least I don’t...I know creatures are supposed to have no secrets for their authors, but I’m afraid mine for me have little else.”

Hearing It on the Radio Radio plays date back to the 1920s, a time before smartphones, computers, and television. For news and entertainment, people would gather around their radios. Radio dramas were performed and recorded in studios, and sound effects artists would create the sounds for everything from background noise to action.

Pan Pan Theatre Ireland’s Pan Pan Theatre was founded by Gavin Quinn and Aedín Cosgrove to find new approaches to theatrical performances—like this innovative production of Beckett’s radio play. Per a traditional radio drama, the voices of the cast and the sound effects were recorded for broadcast. But Pan Pan’s specially designed listening room at the Kennedy Center truly sets the production apart. There you’ll be surrounded by those sounds as you sit mostly in the dark (but with some daylight and starlight). Listen for… n




innuendo or innocent remarks that suggest something else, which Beckett uses to comic effect when Mr. Slocum helps Maddy the classical music Maddy stops for—Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden,” which is about the struggle with death sound effects that convey background noise and also action how the actors use vocal tools like pitch, tempo, volume, word emphasis, and even silence to express emotions and meaning

Think about… n n

what you think happened on the train, and why the church text “The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down”—and its connection to the play’s title

Director on the Spot The radio play and production may raise more questions than answers. Luckily, Director Gavin Quinn will answer your questions after the performance. Have them ready.

David M. Rubenstein Chairman Deborah F. Rutter President Mario R. Rossero Senior Vice President, Education Alicia B. Adams Vice President, International Programming and Dance; Festival Curator Major support for IRELAND 100 is provided by David and Alice Rubenstein and the Embassy of Ireland. Additional support is provided by The American Ireland Fund; Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley; The Coca-Cola Company; William B. Finneran; Ingersoll Rand; Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater; Amalia Perea Mahoney and William Mahoney; Malin Corporation plc; Marcia V. Mayo; The Mayo Charitable Foundation; Medtronic; Angela Moore; and Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan. Events for Students and Performances for Young Audiences is made possible by The Clark Charitable Foundation; the Kimsey Endowment Fund; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; Paul M. Angell Foundation; and the U.S. Department of Education. Major support for educational programs at the Kennedy Center is provided by David and Alice Rubenstein through the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, the National Committee for the Performing Arts, and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts. International Programming at the Kennedy Center is made possible through the generosity of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts. Cuesheets are produced by ARTSEDGE, an education program of the Kennedy Center. Learn more about Education at the Kennedy Center at The contents of this Cuesheet have been developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education. You should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

© 2016 The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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All That Fall: Performance/Discussion  

Discover a different kind of theater with no stage and no actors. Experience this radio play by Samuel Beckett as it was intended—to be hear...

All That Fall: Performance/Discussion  

Discover a different kind of theater with no stage and no actors. Experience this radio play by Samuel Beckett as it was intended—to be hear...

Profile for artsedge