GLENN LOWRY: In 2007, Paul Chan, in partnership with Creative Time and the Classical Theater of Harlem, staged four outdoor performances of Samuel Beckett's 1949 play, Waiting for Godot. It was performed in New Orleans, in two of the neighborhoods worst hit by Hurricane Katrina: the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly.
Paul Chan, in his Brooklyn studio:
PAUL CHAN: I first visited New Orleans in 2006. So that's a year after Katrina [and] every street corner I saw looked like the backdrop of every staging of Godot I'd ever seen. No one was around. There's a palpable sense of waiting and there were sections of the city where it was supposed to be urban but, in fact, looked rural because all the houses were gone. And so it looked like the country road that Beckett had imagined Vladimir and Estragon were waiting for Godot.
And I realized that maybe what I could do is find some way to use the given landscape of the city as a backdrop to tell the most emblematic story of waiting we have.
It wasn't hard for New Orleanians to get it because they knew what it meant to wait. They knew what it meant to walk that line between hope and hopelessness.