Thursday, January 3, 2013

Three Sisters: Overview

Welcome to the rehearsal journal and resources for Oregon State University Theatre's upcoming production of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. The entries will include information about the play, concept, design, dramaturgy, and rehearsal and performance process.

The show is cast and rehearsals will begin with a Russian dinner and read-through on January 8. Our production of this classic piece of early realism will expose the complex (and often very funny) familial relationships of the Prozorov family. Although originally written in 1900, we have chosen to set the play several years later beginning in 1909. Part of the rational is, admittedly, my own aesthetic bias towards the design elements of the years between 1909 and 1912. The less shallow reason is due to the historical and political context in the years leading to the February Revolution in 1917 and the looming threat of World War I. Although many of Chekhov's plays engage issues of class struggle and the deterioration of the aristocracy, he never could have imagined the transformation his country would undergo after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the rise of the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin. Moving the dates closer to the socio-political shift creates a greater sense of immediacy surrounding the lives of the Prozorovs and their friends. While they languish in the country, concerning themselves with petty small-town affairs and longing for what they may never attain, the world transforms around them. Their hopes and dreams become all the more poignant as they do not realize how soon what they have will slip away.

Three Sisters originally premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1901. This wry and witty work tells the story of the Prozorov family headed by brother Andrei and his three sisters Olga, Masha, and Irina. The play is a sensitive and funny look into the life in a small provincial town and the people that reside there touching on themes of love, loss, and unfulfilled dreams.

The play begins at a festive celebration on May 5 for Irina, the youngest sister’s, name day. The party is a bittersweet affair as it is also the anniversary of the death of the Prozorov’s father, a general in the Russian army. The family reminisces about life growing up in Moscow as Irina tends to the polite advances of several potential suitors including Solyony, a cynical army captain, Fedotik, a cheerfully generous soldier, Rodet, a high school drill coach and soldier, and Tusenbach, a sensitive and intellectual baron and lieutenant. Irina is not interested in love or marriage, and instead, longs for work to find meaning in her life.

Other party guests include Masha, the brooding and beautiful middle sister, Kulygin, Masha’s sweet but rather foolish husband, Olga, the kindly eldest sister, and Chebutykin, an aging army doctor who dotes on Irina. In a rather melancholy mood, Masha begins to leave the party when the handsome Vershinin, a debonair lieutenant-colonel arrives. Masha, struck by his charm remains at the party and the two characters embark on a mutual attraction that remains throughout the play, although both are married to other people. Late in the celebration, Andrei’s girlfriend, Natasha arrives. The sisters laugh at her poor fashion sense and country manners. Andrei loves her and they agree to marry.

Time passes and family drama ensues as the sisters long to return to Moscow, which remains a distant and unattainable dream. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the information about the play and author. Advertise in the play bill that this info is available online.