Waiting for Godot, San Quentin

On the night of November 19, 1957, Rick Cluchey was locked in a cell in San Quentin Prison serving a life sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping (though the circumstances had been questionable).

At that same time members of the Actor’s Workshop from San Francisco were preparing to perform Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the prison’s massive dining hall, their stage erected, ironically, on the spot where the prison’s gallows once stood.

Alan Mandell, then a lanky young man in his late 20s, was the company’s manager.

“There were about 1,500 inmates there,” Mandell remembers.

“So the play began and it was amazing; you could hear a pin drop. Herb Blau (the company’s principal director) had explained to them that the play was about what we do while we’re waiting—waiting for Godot—which for some people represents the end and nothingness; for others it may be God and salvation. Well, these guys really understood what waiting was about. At the end there were screams and shouts and applause. It was astounding.”

Farber, Jim. 2016. “Samuel Beckett In Prison”.
centertheatregroup.org