To break up the apparently aimless conversation of the two main characters in the North Coast production of “Waiting for Godot,” more than one visitor arrives to enliven and intrigue them.
It would spoil the surprise to reveal whether one is the mysterious Godot, but at some point they do greet his messenger.
Teenager Parker Fergus plays that role in the new production, which is being staged by Partners for the PAC, the coalition of arts groups dedicated to preserving the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center at 16th Street and Franklin Avenue.
Fergus is an eighth-grader who attends Broadway Middle School in Seaside. His mother, Lisa Fergus, is a regular in the North Coast theater scene, most recently appearing in “Once Upon a Mattress” at the Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach, in which her son was in the ensemble.
Fergus, 13, has appeared at the Coaster and with the Missoula Children’s Theater, making his debut as Little Jake in “Annie Get Your Gun,” then playing Tiny Tim in “Scrooge, The Musical” and Chip in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” which his mother directed.
“I’ve never pushed him to be in a show,” said Lisa Fergus. “He chooses whether to be involved and prepares on his own for auditions.
“And I try to instill in him the classic, ‘no small parts, only small actors,’ and that the way he acts with his cast and crew is just as important as the performance he gives on stage.”
Fergus recalls his debut with fondness.
“When they did ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ my mom asked me if I wanted to be in it. I said OK,” he said. “I just kind of checked in and figured out a passion. I love acting. It’s just kind of fun to be someone I’m not.”
He’s eloquent about why he does it, too. “Applause — that’s reward enough,” he said. “If I got paid, it would be a dream job.”
His ability to memorize lines continues to surprise his mother. “He does not have to study them — lines come naturally, very early on in the rehearsal process,” she said. “He doesn’t usually write anything down, but simply commits everything to memory.”
Fergus shrugs off his ability. “It just comes to me. I don’t know how,” he said. “I just remember the line.”
“Waiting for Godot,” which spawned the “theater of the absurd” movement, was famously described by a newspaper critic as a play in which “nothing happens — twice.” It was written by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett and first staged in Paris in 1953 as mainland Europe rebuilt after World War II.
The director, Karen Bain, studied the script at the Directors Lab West, an invitational workshop in Los Angeles last spring. For the Astoria production, which opens Friday, she cast familiar North Coast actors William Ham and Slab Slabinski as the tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, with Bill Honl as a strange visitor, Pozzo.
“I was looking for a young boy to play the two boys in the play, who are traditionally played by one actor,” she said.
“Parker was recommended to me by several people,” Bain added, noting the youngster’s experience acting at the Coaster Theatre.
“From the beginning, Parker was treated as an equal member of the ensemble, with the same expectations and respect. His ideas during the exploration of the script were excellent.”
When older, Fergus would like to sing the role of Javert, the villain, in “Les Miserables.” For Christmas, his parents gave him “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.”
“I am working my way through it,” he said, with a grin, noting that “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” are his favorites … with his eye on the male lead roles.
Bain, the director, is impressed with his talent. “Parker is a young man I would be happy to work with again,” she said.
“Waiting for Godot” is funded, in part, by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, distributed through the Clatsop County Cultural Coalition.
— Patrick Webb
Managing Editor’s note: The writer, a former managing editor of The Daily Astorian, will appear in the mute role of “Lucky” in the Astoria production of “Waiting for Godot.”
Broadway Middle School student
‘Parker was treated as an equal member of the ensemble, with the same expectations and respect.’
director describing young actor Parker Fergus
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