Last year, you may recall, Dianne Wiest surprised New Yorkers by performing selections from Samuel Beckett's Happy Days at Madison Square Park in a costume that suggested she was being swallowed by a rock. Now the peerless Irish actor Fiona Shaw is following in Wiest's literary-apocalyptic footsteps: Tonight and tomorrow from 6pm to 6:30pm—Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13—Shaw will perform text from T.S. Eliot's epoch-shaking The Waste Land, for free, in an empty fountain at the north end of the park, to the delight of poetry and theater fans and the presumed confusion of passers-by.
Shaw is an actor of stunning force. She has won two Olivier Awards, and her star turn in 2002's Medea was one of the great performances in modern Broadway history. (Yes, philistines, she was also Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies.) Shaw has ventured into The Waste Land before: As New York City culture fans may remember, she delivered Eliot's dense modernist intravaganza in 1996 at the then-dilapidated Liberty Theatre on 42nd Street, in a gorgeous happening directed by Deborah Warner. And ten years later, Warner directed Shaw in the superb production (seen at BAM in 2008) of…Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. So it all comes together, sort of!
Like Wiest's pop-up performance, Shaw's The Waste Land is taking place under the aegis of Arlene Shechet's park installation Full Steam Ahead, which will be at the park through April 28, 2019. Expect lilacs bred out of the dead land, memory mixed with desire, dull roots stirred with spring rain and other Eliot faves.