Staging Chekhov: Inside the Playwright’s Work & World

On Monday, December 9, three trailblazers in the Vancouver theatre community are doing the unthinkable: They’re spilling their secrets – the vexing challenges and vivid “ah ha!” moments behind staging the works of one of history’s most beloved and celebrated playwrights, Anton Chekhov.a_3

Staging Chekhov is an extra special event; it’s a behind-the-process panel discussion at the Vancouver Public Library, Central Library, moderated by Vancouver theatre heavyweight Jerry Wasserman. Presenters include Blackbird Theatre, Artistic Director John Wright, Kathleen Duborg of Theatre at UBC , and Richard Newman, actor with The Only Child Collective.
All panel members will dive into the inner mechanics of what it really takes to stage a Chekhov play.

For John, this panel discussion comes in lead-up to Uncle Vanya opening at The Cultch on December 23. As the director, John knows about bringing Chekhov’s work to life in the theatre – he’s working through this process right now! Uncle Vanya tells the story of Vanya, a man whose monotonous country estate existence is thrust into chaos when his finicky, aging brother-in-law returns with a new young wife – the beautiful and irresistible Yelena.

Photo taken by Tim Matheson of  Anthony F. Ingram & Robert Moloney.

Photo taken by Tim Matheson of Anthony F. Ingram & Robert Moloney.

Over at Theatre at UBC, Kathleen is in preparation for another Chekhov play– The Seagul  – which she will be directing. This darkly comic tale of unrequited love is set to open on January 23, 2014.

Richard, a celebrated Vancouver actor, has great experience with classical theatre. In addition to roles in Twelfth Night and Hamlet at Bard on the Beach this past summer, Richard played the old and often drunk doctor in Chekhov’s Three Sisters from The Only Child Collective, which ran at The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab in April 2013.

Photo of Three Sisters taken by Emily Cooper of Luc Roderique, Rachel Aberle, Richard Newman and Brahm Taylor

Photo of Three Sisters taken by Emily Cooper of Luc Roderique, Rachel Aberle, Richard Newman and Brahm Taylor

The insight that these three bring to the table can only come from the practical experience of bringing Chekhov’s works to life in front of an audience.

Of the hundreds and thousands of plays that have been written and produced throughout the years, there are only a handful that have really stood the test of time. Chekhov has not one, but four plays that are considered among the classics. These plays are still relevant and hugely popular today and have outlived their first cast, their first audience, and even the playwright himself!

But Chekhov’s influence extends well beyond his own writing. Even after his early death at age 44, Chekhov’s works went on to inspire other writers throughout history: George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, and Ernest Hemmingway – just to name a few.

With such an incredible legacy, how then does an actor or director rise to the challenge of mounting a production that has been staged and re staged countless times throughout a hundred-year lifespan? How do they breathe fresh life into stories that are so widely known?

Luckily, we have experienced members of the Vancouver theatre community to spill these secrets!

Staging Chekhov takes place in the Alma VanDusen and Peter Kaye Rooms at the Vancouver Public Library, Central Library on December 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

Blackbird Theatre’s Uncle Vanya runs at The Cultch from Dec. 23 to Jan. 18 inside the Historic Theatre. Tickets can be purchased from $30 and can be purchased at tickets.thecultch.com.

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