Emory senior investigates Samuel Beckett through a choreographic lens in 'Very Unpromising Material'

Photo by Christina Massad

March 4, 2020

ATLANTA—Emory College senior and dance and movement studies major, Maria McNiece, presents her honors thesis exploring the work of Samuel Beckett in “Very Unpromising Material,” March 20-21 at 7:30 p.m. in the dance studio of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Performances are free and open to the public.

Eleven dancers huddle beneath an eight-foot heap of scrap metal. They stare blankly as they tear pages out from books, fold them into paper airplanes, and hurl them into the air. The planes land on the opening scene of “Very Unpromising Material.”  McNiece’s interdisciplinary thesis investigates Samuel Beckett’s absurdist, avant-garde play “Waiting for Godot” and is founded in dance, English, and theater scholarship. Through an extensive exploration of Beckett’s work, McNiece physicalizes themes of existentialism and religious allegory to create a dance that questions human agency. 

A cast of suited dancers sing to god, develop quirky mannerisms, and scream at one another during this half-hour show. Never leaving the stage, they lose and regain hope in an endless cycle as they experience their confined, inescapable condition together. Paired with a soundtrack of classics from decades past—including works by America, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, and Gilbert O’ Sullivan—McNiece’s dance sparks nostalgia. The choreography highlights the characters’ dependent relationship and physicalizes their collective glorification of a silver tree—built of scrap metal and constructed by the choreographer and her father. The work also features scenes from “Waiting for Godot.”

The show is performed in the round, and there will be a talkback with the choreographer and artists after each performance. This work is supported by the Dr. Daniel Adame Leadership Fund, the Stipe Society of Creative Scholars, and the Center for Creativity and the Arts at Emory University. “Very Unpromising Material” can be seen March 20-21 at 7:30 p.m. in the dance studio of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Performances are free and open to the public. For more information on the show, contact Maria McNiece at mmcniec@emory.edu.

The Schwartz Center for Performing Arts is committed to providing performances and facilities accessible to all. Accommodation requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the event to the Arts at Emory Box Office at 404.727.5050, or by email at boxoffice@emory.edu