Lisa Dwan

“…an instrument of Beckett.” – The New York Times

As part of the inaugural MIT Performing season, Lisa Dwan, acclaimed Irish actress, producer and director, examines the role of dance in Beckett’s work and the conversations he was having with the human body. Her lecture/demonstration, “A Body of Beckett,” explores the expansive metaphysical world where our identities exist.

Dwan has produced three short, one-woman Beckett plays: Not I, Footfalls and Rockaby; and co-directed her performance of Beckett’s Texts for Nothing, the first performance of that work by a woman. In 2016, Dwan conceived and performed No’s Knife, 13 fragmented prose pieces selected and arranged by the actress from Texts for Nothing. These interior monologues push language to the brink of breakdown, unlocking Beckett’s contemporary relevance to gender, identity, and the human condition.

Lisa Dwan comes to MIT as part of the 2018-19 MIT Performing Series, a prototyping and presenting series curated by Jay Scheib, professor for Music and Theater Arts, and presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. MIT Performing promotes a research based artistic practice and serves as a new platform for contemporary performance. MIT Performing is supported in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT.

Lisa Dwan is an Irish performer, director and writer. Having originally trained in the UK as a ballet dancer, including dancing with Rudolf Nureyev in Coppelia in Dublin and London Lewis Ballet Company, she began acting professionally in her teens. She has worked extensively in theatre, film, and television, both internationally and in her native Ireland.

Dwan is currently starring in the new Netflix series ‘Top Boy.’ Dwan was last seen on the US stage staring in Harold Pinter’s The Lover and The Collection at STC in Washington DC. In 2019 she will perform the world premiere of Pale Sister, an adaptation of the Antigone myth written for her by the Irish writer Colm Toibin.

Most recently Dwan completed a world premiere of a one-woman production of her own adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s 1950’s prose text No’s Knife at The Old Vic Theatre London & Abbey Theatre Dublin. Prior to this Dwan has performed all over the world in “The Beckett Trilogy” of Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby (Royal Court, West End, The Barbican Centre, The Southbank Centre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Paramount Theatre in Boston, Skirball Center NYC, The Broad in Los Angeles, Perth Festival, Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin, Toronto, Dublin, Belfast, Galway, and a sell-out UK Tour). Other recent theater includes: world premiere in title role of Anna Karenina in a new adaptation by Marina Carr for The Abbey Theatre Dublin, Shining City (Off-Broadway, Irish Repertory Theatre), Text for Nothing (White Light Festival, Lincoln Center), Not I (Royal Court Theatre London), Beside the Sea (Southbank Center London), Margot, Diary of an Unhappy Queen (Barbican London), The Journey Between Us (Southwark Playhouse London), Ramin Gray’s production of Illusions by Ivan Viripaev (Bush Theatre London), Not I (Southbank Theatre London), Dear Bessie: Letters Live with Benedict Cumberbatch (Hay Festival and West End), The Soldier’s Tale (Hay Festival), Not I (BAC London), The Importance of Being Earnest (Irish tour), The History of the World at 3am (Andrews Lane Dublin) and As You Like It (Galway Arts Festival). Film credits include: Trust by Danny Boyle, An Afterthought, Walt Disney’s Oliver TwistThe Tailor of Panama and Bhopal – A Prayer for Rain. Television credits include: Ovid (BBC), Not I (Sky Arts), Rock Rivals (ITV), Big Bow WowFair City (RTÉ), Mystic Knights (Fox).

Dwan writes, presents, lectures and teaches regularly on theatre, culture, gender and Beckett (BBC radio and television, NPR, the Guardian, the Telegraph, École Normale Supérieure, Trinity College Dublin, Reading University, Oxford & Cambridge University and Princeton). She recently completed a documentary for the BBC on Beckett and Dante and has been commissioned to write a book on Beckett for Virago. In 2017 she held the Atelier residency in Princeton University teaching a course on Beckett’s prose work.

Lisa Dwan is currently a fellow at the School of Art and Ballet at New York University and a 2017-2018 distinguished artist in residence at Columbia University. Next year she will continue her position at Columbia teaching at the Institute of Women and Gender studies and developing a new theatre piece with Margaret Atwood based on Medea.

Past Events

“A Body of Beckett”
February 21, 2019 / 7:00pm
MIT Building W97
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA
Free and open to the public

“This is a marathon – a feat of memory, dedication and courage – a triumph for Lisa Dwan”

– Kate Kellaway, The Guardian


“Dwan brings out all the passion, wit, and anger in the script in a remarkably vigorous feat of vocal virtuosity. She can swoop and pounce with sardonic derision.”

– Paul Taylor, The Independent


“Ms. Dwan, you see, is an instrument of Beckett, in that way saints and martyrs are said to be instruments of God”

Ben Brantley, The New York Times



The Guardian,”Lisa Dwan: ‘Beckett made these wounds universal’
BBC News, “Not I: Lisa Dwan’s record speed Beckett
The New York Times, “Beaten (Down) by the Clock
Bomb Magazine, “Finding the hope in the one-woman plays of Samuel Beckett
The Guardian, “No’s Knife review – a marathon and a triumph
The New Yorker, “Chatterbox
The Independent, “No’s Knife, Old Vic, London review: Lisa Dwan is back with Beckett in another extraordinary tour de force
The Boston Globe, “Time is of the essence in a mesmerizing Beckett trilogy


Lisa Dwan’s performance at the Old Vic Theatre of "No’s Knife," a selection of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Texts for Nothing’ (1950-52). Credit: Manuel Harlan.
Lisa Dwan’s performance at the Old Vic Theatre of "No’s Knife," a selection of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Texts for Nothing’ (1950-52). Credit: Manuel Harlan.