3 Sisters *
2006: Chekhov and Pinter (pomo project) *


Featured Pages: Chekhov4

I use Chekhov in classes, monologues and scenes. Would I like to direct his plays again? I don't know.

Chekhov: A Life in Letters From his teenage years in provincial Russia to his premature death in 1904, Anton Chekhov wrote thousands of letters to a wide range of correspondents. This fascinating new selection tells Chekhov’s story as a man and a writer through affectionate bulletins to his family, insightful discussions of literature with publishers and theater directors, and tender love letters to his actress wife. Vividly evoking landscapes, people, and his daily life, the letters offer revealing glimpses into Chekhov’s preoccupations—the onset of tuberculosis, his dual careers as doctor and writer, and his ambivalence about his growing reputation as Russia’s foremost playwright and author. This volume takes us inside the mind of one of the world’s greatest writers, and the character that emerges from these pages is resilient, generous, charming, and life enhancing. Russian & Soviet Theatre (Rudnitzki) *

Subdirectories: 1 * 2 * * text -- not in use!

3 Siters, notes

Three Sisters Dramaturgy Page link *
See 3sis Forum: Method and Realism

Thinking about a small article for CHEKHOV magazine. Virtual Theatre experience.

First, the cameras brought the closeups. Good the Chekhov's monologues.

Second, the polyphonic principle. Chekhov and hypertext. And the open structure text.

Summarize it!

From 3sis Forum

Date: Tue Sep 28, 1999 9:30 am
Subject: [3sis] Limits of Russianess

Folks, if you promise me not to go overboard with your research on Russia, here are two links to my Russian Page: Exile website and Russian Being -- draft/chapter from the book I have no time to write. Remember, our Sisters are in 2001, when according to Tara, Siberia and Alaska went independent and formed a new country. To follow this futurist concept Natasha and Kulygin are from Siberia, not Alaskans, "low class."

I will put the links into Links and you can it too.


Gogol: Inspector ...I live in my dreams. The thought that I will work on "Virtual 3 Sisters" book is one of them.


Quotables-notables - from the 2nd round table 14 SEPT 1999 (sample, see the rest at 3sis Forum)

All Q: If father were alive would he have stopped vershinin and masha ;Q how much do the 4 witnesses (lastname people) know about the importance of death of father

Andrei : He can’t get a job without his wife natasha sleeping with the chairman; He is weak; When andrei is 9 years old the affair between the doctor and mother takes place; At age 10 andrei is invited by his father to partake in officers games with gipsies in the den. He is overwhelmed. His father knows he is no good for the army that’s why he goes to academia. When andrei is 18 the family moves to the village

Baron :Q Why did you resign from the military now = because he wants to comit suicide . suicide in uniform is dishonorable. A civilian death is not dishonorable; Q why = he knows that irina will destroy him and his reputation

Death of father :Like in hamlet is it the motor for events the chain recation catalyst; Doctor poisoned father to prevent a similar fate that has happened to olga to happen to irina his daugther ; Q who knows

Doctor x mother Q what relationship did they have = affair = Irina is his daugther

Duel : Q who fires the first shot; Q How does the duel look like = baron misses on purposes = insulting to solyonin= sends message I want you to kill me

Father : He is in the play ; he is important; Q who is this man; there only was this man; he raised four (firstname people) without ways; He had mistresses regularly; he drinks more after his wife’s death. One nite he raped his oldest daugther in a drunken stupor; Q does he remember

First and lastname :3 sisters and brother = firstnames; the others last name; this is chekhov choice; anatoly choice = vershinin = devil, kuligin= husband= tschebutkin = doctor; tutzenbach= baron ; solyonin = good person; Firstname people : Synchronized picture of the past

Irina : The firstname people do not like her. The doctor does love but she does not like him

Irina x Baron : Baron is a vehicle for Irina to get to Moscow; Baron loves irina

Kuligin Q -- why did you not stop her = he does not have the guts to test it meaning their relationship with this question meaning whether she would leave him or not if posed with this question

Lermontov poem : Forget they dreams .; Q what is the poem about Masha x Kuligin : discovers revelation that kuligin is a ZERO = He dislikes her for knowing because he has pride ;Q: after Vershinin affair does she see him different

Masha x Vershinin :Q What does vershinin have; It is masha’s first love affair ; it is wrong but it is exciting. She says I will have you for lunch ; Before she married kuligin she had affair with soldier=officer. She knows that they are not different but dumb and brutes = that’s why kuligin . he is differebnt and he has put himself where he is thru his self.

Memory Q: do they remember their mother

Mother’ Death : She was an alcoholic; father assisted in driving her to her death; she dies when andrei is 13 years old

Natasha = the one who has the balls in the show

Olga : Q molested by her father = yes in a drunken state when she was 12 years old; She hates her father he pushed her into position to fill the position of the gone mother
Q: why Vershinin = he is somebody ;Q: why did you marry kuligin= out of fear when father died; to have someone who is telling you what to do ; Kuligin = substitute for father ? Q: Why did you marry a school teacher

Relationship links

Solyonin :He is a straight shooting arrow and he does things; He decides to have the duel. He sets up the challenge in front of the theather so the baron has to accept the challenge for the duel.

Solyonin x Baron : Brother relationship; Marriage to irina will destroy the baron. She marries him without love; soloyonin is the mercy dagger that will kill his friend to protect him from his destruction

Solyonin x Irina : Q do you love and what

Spring Pilot project: 3sis : kuligin= tape recorder; vershinin=tv;

Tolstoi :When people see a lie they turn white=frightened. In Chekhov people turn red; they are ashamed that they are afraid; ashamed

Vershinin : Q why masha A =everyman/ woman and child; Vershinin= like the father he even has the fathers job

Vershinin x Kuligin : Kuligin gifts to Vershinin a book (account of his life) and his wife; Q kuligin a casuality

Tadeuz Cantor: walked in the middle of the action. Directing the audience where the action is taking place. Camera two to cover the ground. Cutaways. Live editing the theater superbowl ; PARATHEATER=metadirection- Small Chekhov: Farces & Love Letters - Fall 2005

Next: Director's Notes
3sis-Y2K New Partisan

Unwound Dolls -- Adapting Three Sisters

Cassandra Johnson | 01.22.2005
Columbia University’s recent production of Three Sisters at Classic Stage Company began with offstage laughter: extreme, indulgent, vulgar, drunken laughter. It was so real and prolonged that it soon spread to the high-spirited, noticeably collegiate audience, making for one of those great moments when performers and spectators are unexpectedly united.

The youngest sister Irina enters laughing hysterically, only to become irate after Olga, the eldest, brings up their father’s death. In the more traditional Dunnigan translation—sans the laughter—she responds, “Why recall it?” In this version, she rips out, “I don’t want to talk about it!” Director Pavol Liska’s new production of Paul Schmidt’s translation of Three Sisters strives to trim down the story to enhance the emotions. The plot and relationships are less clear than in Chekhov’s original, but the feelings ring out soundly.

Three Sisters is the tale of a highly educated upper-class Moscow family, The Prozorovs, who were relocated to a small rural town when their father, a brigadier general, took command of an artillery unit in the provinces. For a year since the father’s death, the now orphaned family has begun trying to cope with their lackluster surroundings. They have been away from Moscow for eleven years when the play opens, and country living has taken its toll on their formerly good taste and humor, and left them dull and embittered, if prone to highly dramatic outbursts.

This adaptation proves its fidelity mostly in matters of theme and tone, accomplishing all the contrasts of tragedy and comedy that we find in Chekhov’s original, and successfully depicting the play’s pervasive ennui, the characters’ dissatisfaction with provincial life and their vague dreams of heavenly Moscow, of something better, that is, than the here and now.

The three sisters, played with passion and distinction by Rebecca Henderson (Masha), Amanda Boekelheide (Olga) and Anne Gridley (Irina), live in a cage. Irina, soon to lose her bloom, has one hope of leaving the country and returning to Moscow—to marry. Masha is married, but unhappily, and is in love with another man, Vershinin (Zachary Oberzan) who is also unhappily married, and is in love with her. They don’t know what they want, how to communicate or how to act, and are both despondent. Olga is already a spinster and would have been happy to marry anyone at all, or so she imagines, as she waxes pathetic now that it’s too late. Whether by the world, or their psyches, these women are trapped. The actresses convincingly convey the sisters’ shifts between impassioned, vague hopes and passive, enraged despair through the production’s pared down language, full of pauses and silences.

This closed-in feeling is manifest on the Spartan stage on which the characters live —a checkerboard tile floor, a shoe rack, a poster of a castle surrounded by paradisical skies advertising Moscow as “The Place to Be,” and a kitchen garbage full of flowers.

On The Verge is introducing their production of Three Sisters as a translation, but adaptation would be a more fitting word. Whatever Schmidt’s translation looks like on the page, on the stage it rids us of Chekhov’s detailed sets and stage directions, strips down the flowery language, adds physical comedy, and places the emphasis on heightened feelings rather than the naturalism for which Chekhov is famed.

Chekhov’s plays tend to be simultaneously melodramatic and wholly unsentimental. He doesn’t allow us to feel pity for his characters or for ourselves. Every time his characters approach sentimentality, and as an audience we begin to be moved, he invokes some absurdity to make everyone laugh: someone falls, volunteers a ridiculous statement, or deliberately lightens the mood. Likewise, this adaptation emphasized the extremes in human behavior to illustrate our preposterousness and permit us to laugh at ourselves, to bring levity to even our most grave thoughts. Chekhov’s characters are wholly emotional beings that he renders unemotionally, so that we see them as they are. There isn’t a shred of logic in Irina’s frequent crack-ups, and half the time her tearful tantrums are not justified. She can switch either mood on or off with lightning swiftness, meaning that as helpless as she claims to be, she is either fully in control and insincere, or out of control and hopeless.

The characters in Three Sisters are naïve and their thinking is often laconic. Irina earnestly asks Tuzenbach, “You say that life is so beautiful, but what if it isn’t?” Who does she suppose determines whether it is or isn’t? Theirs is a world where feelings are immense and overwhelming, and much goes unexamined, as rather than craft their own lives, they allow life to happen to them. At the very worst of times, Chekhov paradoxically has his characters declaring their joyeur announcing, “I’m so happy!,” when they are obviously miserable.

In today’s world the sisters are prime candidates for Prozac. They ought to be numbed, for their own sakes, so little control do they have over their moods. There was one moment of the play, however, when their rock-bottom depression became genuinely heartbreaking. Liska’s own gorgeous, painterly stage-tableau, when the three sisters slid down the back stage wall in despair, crumpling to the floor like three fallen graces, and leaning their heads in towards one another with their legs straight out, like unwound dolls. Each in her turn bemoans the fact of living, and Irina repeats over and over, “What an awful night.” Like a child she deepens her sadness by declaring it, her self-pity and despair seemed to burst straight from her heart. Yet no one even knows what has happened that is so awful!

“I’m in the strangest mood today. I feel an urge to live,” Vershinin earnestly declares. These characters do not know themselves; they do not attempt to examine their lives. They emote with abandon, and it is their fault they are so bored, so idle, so immobilized by their rage, and Irina’s repeated outbursts, “I can’t take it anymore,” “I’m worn out,” “I want to go to Moscow,” and “I should have shot myself long ago,” become funny despite how much she means them. I found myself grieving for them, yet wanting to shake them, and yell “Get over it!”

It is not, however, their fault they had to leave Moscow, that their father died, or that their evil stepsister Natasha has a knack for sucking the joy out of life, but to paraphrase Livy: the measure of a man’s worth is in how he responds to the vicissitudes of Fortune. It is how the Prozorov family reacts to their misfortunes that betrays their irrationality and their weakness.

At one point Andrey (Walker Lewis), the only boy in the family, who had once carried all their hopes and dreams and is now a total degenerate, announces that he “hates the present,” but that when he thinks of the future, of a new beginning, of another place and time to come, he has hope and is filled with joy. Irina cries despairingly, “I keep forgetting things;” in her case she is obsessed with the past, but also hates the present, as do all the others.

This once-cultured family’s regression is at its nadir when Andrey is found shoving tortilla chips into his gaping maw, staring at a porn on a T.V. facing upstage so that we can only hear it—an interesting device which encourages our imaginations to fill in the blanks. Chekhov hated the vulgar and the utilitarian, and in Liska’s staging of this scene the author’s disgust is amplified by our relationship to the archetypically déclassé, and all too familiar, portrait of Andrey.

I left Three Sisters with the principal thought, “Hurray for great adaptations.” Director Pavol Liksa’s adaptation made possible an understanding between performers and spectators that has eluded many a stricter interpretation. Rather than play down to an uneducated or dim-witted audience, it very consciously chose to emphasize particular aspects of the play, for the most part tuning into feelings Chekhov was after, and updating certain incidentals so that we could appreciate the impact of any given joke or idea. Consequently nothing fell flat, no one was excluded, and the audience’s attention—as I looked around the theatre—was rapt. By taking some things away, and taking others further than is habitual, it brought new life to familiar material, and brought us back, in many ways, to the heart of the play.

Liska orchestrated his ensemble masterfully, moving them around the stage in meaningful and dynamic portraits. There was nothing accidental in the play’s unfolding and his influence was very detectable upon the staging, without being affected or random. Despite the stylization, the decisions felt natural and rooted in intelligent and aesthetic choices. All of these things are very hard to accomplish in any more traditional staging, and even tougher in a riskier rendering. His distinct accomplishment makes him a director to watch out for.

In his novel Main Street, Sinclair Lewis wrote, if memory serves, “It has never been proven that upon learning of another’s misfortunes, that a man feels the slightest consolation about his own.” Although that statement struck me as true when I read it years ago, I left the theatre Sunday the better off for having witnessed the dysfunction of the Prozorov family. I felt like the portrait of stability and well-being, filled with hope and in love with the present, for observing how utterly exaggerated and unwarranted are the three sisters’ reactions to what are only the difficulties of life. Could such a reaction been one of the notoriously ironical Chekhov’s goals?