A Dutch production of the Samuel Beckett play "Waiting for Godot" was canceled because the show's Irish director only allowed men to audition, despite Beckett clearly stating that the cast should be five men.
The play, which features two central male characters Vladimir and Estragon who are joined by other male characters as they wait for someone who never arrives, had been in rehearsals since November.
It was due to be staged at the University of Groningen’s Usva student cultural center in March, but the production was canceled when the venue discovered the casting call had been open to men only.
The venue subsequently informed the production team that the male-only casting call went against the university's inclusivity policy.
Bram Douwes, a Usva theater programmer, told the local Ukrant newspaper that "everything would have been fine" if five male actors had been selected after open auditions, while a spokesperson for the University of Groningen said times have changed since Beckett wrote the play in 1953.
"[Beckett] explicitly stated that this play should be performed by five men. Moving forward, times have changed. And that the idea that only men are suitable for this role is outdated and even discriminatory," a university spokesperson said.
"We as a university stand for an open inclusive community where it is not appropriate to exclude others, on any basis."
Donegal native Oisín Moyne, 24, who hoped to make his directorial debut with the Beckett play, told the Irish Times that his life has become "utterly absurd" in the past few weeks.
Moyne told the publication that he originally considered casting people of other genders but could not do so because of explicit rules set down by Beckett before his death.
In 1988, one year before his death, Beckett sued a Dutch theater company for choosing to cast a woman in the play, while his estate holds the rights to the play until 2059 and has continued to oppose productions that deviate from Beckett's instructions.
Medeea Anton, the play's 24-year-old producer, said the decision to cancel the play overlooked the important role of non-acting crew members, who were made up of a diverse group of people.
"Although there was a restriction on the actors, which are only five people in this production, the rest of our production is majority female. We also have trans people, we have non-binary individuals, the majority of the production is people from the LGBT community," Anton told the Irish Times.
"I tried to explain to them that it is a legal thing and that we are a small, amateur theatre society, and we cannot afford to be sued. But nothing I could say during the meeting could change their minds."
Some have attempted to challenge the restrictions on Beckett's play in the past, arguing that they are outdated.
A French judge ruled in 1991 that a female cast could perform the play at a festival in Avignon if a letter of objection from Beckett's representative was read out before each performance.
More recently, an Ohio college canceled an all-female production of the play in 2019 fearing a potential lawsuit.