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No Author Better Served

No Author Better Served

The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider

Samuel Beckett, Alan Schneider

Edited by Maurice Harmon

ISBN 9780674003859

Publication date: 10/02/2000

For Alan Schneider, directing Endgame, Samuel Beckett lays out the play’s philosophy, then adds: “Don’t mention any of this to your actors!”

He claimed he couldn’t talk about his work, but Beckett proves remarkably forthcoming in these pages, which document the thirty-year working relationship between the playwright and his principal producer in the United States. The correspondence between Beckett and Schneider offers an unparalleled picture of the art and craft of theater in the hands of two masters. It is also an endlessly enlightening look into the playwright’s ideas and methods, his remarks a virtual crib sheet for his brilliant, eccentric plays.

Alan Schneider premiered five of Beckett’s plays in the United States, including Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape, and Endgame, and directed a number of revivals. Preparing for each new production, the two wrote extensive letters—about intended tone, conception of characters, irony and verbal echoes, staging details for scenes, delivery of individual lines. From such details a remarkable sense of the playwright’s vision emerges, as well as a feel for the director’s task. Of Godot, Beckett wrote to Schneider, “I feel my monster is in safe keeping.” His confidence in the director, and Schneider’s persistent probing for a surer understanding of each play, have produced a marvelous resource: a detailed map of Beckett’s work in conception and in production.

The correspondence starts in December 1955, shortly after their first meeting, and continues to Schneider’s accidental death in March 1984 (when crossing a street to mail a letter to Beckett). The 500 letters capture the world of theater as well as the personalities of their authors. Maurice Harmon’s thorough notes provide a helpful guide to people and events mentioned throughout.


  • Though this 30-year correspondence between Samuel Beckett and theater director Alan Schneider will mainly be read by Beckett buffs, there is much to interest a wider audience… Proposals scotched by Beckett included a radio version of Happy Days with Edith Evans and a film of Godot by Roman Polanski. This epistolary friendship ended in 1984 when Schneider was killed while crossing a road to mail a letter to Beckett.

    —Emma Hagestadt and Christopher Hirst, The Independent


  • Maurice Harmon is Professor Emeritus of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama, University College Dublin.

Book Details

  • 512 pages
  • 5-15/16 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press