The Cherry Orchard
Chekhov's masterpiece is so true to life it could have been written yesterday, particularly so in this new translation by Curt Columbus. An aristocratic Russian family tries to hold on in challenging economic times; to preserve a way of life amidst the inevitable pressures of "progress". When presented with options to fend off impending foreclosure, can the family rise to the challenge? A dramatic comedy about change, loss, renewal, and folly.
|Scenic Designer||R. Eric Stone|
|Costume Designer||Mia Khayat|
|Lighting Designer||Jess Fialko|
|Projections Designers||R. Eric Stone & Jess Fialko|
|Stage Manager||KatyBeth Schmid|
|Percussion||Dr. Dan Moore|
|Music Consultant||Dr. William LaRue Jones|
|LIUBOV RANÉVSKAYA||Deanna Brookens|
|ÁNYA||Maggie Blake ☆|
|LEONÍD GÁEV||Patrick Kilby Reynolds|
|YERMOLÁI LOPÁKIN||Kendall Lloyd|
|PETER TROFÍMOV||Andres Enriquez|
|BORÍS SEMYÓNOV-PÍSHCHIK||Sam Baur Schoer ☆|
|SEMYÓN YEPIHÓDOV||John William Watkins|
|DUNYÁSHA||Daisy McKinlay ☆|
|YÁSHA||Kjai Block ☆|
|A HOMELESS MAN||Ben Schlotfelt ☆|
|THE STATIONMASTER||Andrew Mehegan ☆|
|THE POSTMAN||Lev Cantoral ☆|
|MAID||Alyssa Perry ☆|
|LEO THE DOG||Himself|
|☆ denotes undergraduate student|
For the Love of Chekhov’s Trees
by Kristin Kurz, Dramaturg
The Cherry Orchard has a long and rich production history. As Chekhov’s last play, many of his life experiences are exemplified within the story.
When Chekhov was sixteen, his mother went into debt after having been cheated by builders she had hired to construct a small house. A former lodger, Gabriel Selivanov, offered to help her financially, but in turn secretly bought the house for himself. At approximately the same time, his childhood home in Taganrog was sold to pay off its mortgage. These financial and domestic upheavals imprinted themselves on his memory greatly and reappear in the core action of The Cherry Orchard.
Later in his life, living on a country estate outside Moscow, Chekhov developed an interest in gardening and planted his own cherry orchard. After relocating to Yalta due to his tuberculosis, Chekhov was devastated to learn that the buyer of his former estate had cut down a majority of the orchard. Also, returning on one trip to his childhood haunts in Taganrog, he was further horrified by the devastating effects of industrial deforestation. It was in those woodlands and forests of his holidays in Ukraine that he had first nurtured his ecological passion (this passion is reflected in the character of Dr. Astrov from his play, Uncle Vanya, whose love of forests is his only peace). A lovely and locally famous cherry orchard stood on the farm of family friends where he spent childhood vacations, and in his early short story, “Steppe,” Chekhov depicts a young boy crossing the Ukraine amidst fields of cherry blossoms. Finally, the first inklings of the genesis for the play that would be his last came in a terse notebook entry of 1897, “Cherry Orchard.” Today, Chekhov’s Yalta garden survives alongside The Cherry Orchard as a monument to a man whose feeling for trees equaled his feeling for theatre. Indeed, trees are often unspoken, symbolic heroes and victims of his stories and plays.
Chekhov wrote The Cherry Orchard during the course of several years, alternating between periods of giddiness and frustration, which he considered as bordering upon sloth. In a letter he wrote, “Every sentence I write strikes me as good for nothing.” Throughout this time his chronic tuberculosis also further incapacitated him. Guarded by nature, Chekhov seemed overly secretive about all facets of the work, including the title. As late as the Summer of 1902 he still had not shared anything about the play with anyone in his immediate family or the Moscow Art Theatre. It was only to comfort his wife, Olga, who was recovering from a miscarriage, that he finally let her in on the play’s title, whispering it to her despite the fact that they were alone.
By October 1903 the play was finished and sent to the Moscow Art Theatre. Three weeks later Chekhov arrived at rehearsals in what would be a vain attempt to curb all the “weepiness” from the play, which Stanislavski had developed. The author apparently also snickered when, during rehearsals, the word “orchard” was replaced with the more practical “plantation”. Famously contrary to Chekhov’s wishes, Stanislavski’s version was, by and large, a tragedy. Chekhov disliked the Stanislavski production intensely, concluding that Stanislavski had “ruined” his play, which was in turn under-rehearsed (the Moscow Arts Theatre only rehearsing it for six months, unlike the common practice to rehearse for 18 months, or even more). In one of many letters on the subject, Chekhov would complain, “Anya, I fear, should not have any sort of tearful tone... Not once does my Anya cry, nowhere do I speak of a tearful tone, in the second act there are tears in their eyes, but the tone is happy, lively. Why did you speak in your telegram about so many tears in my play? Where are they? ... Often you will find the words “through tears,” but I am describing only the expression on their faces, not tears. And in the second act there is no graveyard.”
Since the first production at the Moscow Art Theatre, this play has been translated, adapted and produced around the world, becoming a classic work of dramatic literature. Some of the major directors of the world have directed this play, each interpreting the work differently. Some of these directors include Charles Laughton, Peter Brook, Andrei Serban, Eva Le Gallienne, Jean-Louis Barrault, Tyrone Guthrie and Giorgio Strehler.
The inaction of the characters and the missed opportunities seem to echo with audiences around the world. We see how the lives of the characters are changed and yet somehow remain the same, as though their interaction worked to expose the fundamentally static condition of their lives. The future seems to promise a brutal and rapid change, which the main characters of the play are unable to face.
Chekhov calls the play a comedy and despite its mournful tone we might consider what he might have had in mind. Chekhov seems sympathetic to the tragedies of daily life, but often focuses a spotlight on characters whose sense of themselves verge on the self-delusion, the inability to see the world around them.