The Seagull takes flight at the Hilberry Theatre
On December 4, 2009 The Hilberry Theatre will open Anton Chekhov’s first great play, The Seagull (Russian: Чайка, Chayka). This is an exciting time for the Hilberry, as the performance will be a culmination of the Moscow Art Theatre School training those members of the cast received over the summer of 2009. The Seagull is directed by Dr. James Thomas, Professor of Theatre and head of the Wayne State University Theatre’s PhD and Month in Moscow (MIM) programs. MIM participants have access to classes in acting, directing, design, theatre management, and theatre history at the Moscow Art Theatre School. As guests of the Moscow Art Theatre School, MIM participants enjoy the same benefits and privileges as their Russian counterparts, including instruction by Moscow Art Theatre School faculty.
The Seagull opened in October of 1896 in St. Petersburg, Russia to a reception that prompted Chekhov to announce an end to his playwriting. The announcement was short lived, as The Seagull impressed the playwright and friend of Chekhov, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Nemirovich overcame Chekhov’s refusal to allow the play to appear in Moscow and convinced Stanislavski to direct the play for their innovative and newly founded Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. Constantin Stanislavski was a Russian actor and theatre director. His contribution to modern European and American realistic acting has remained at the core of mainstream western performance training for much of the last century. The Seagullsoon took on a life of its own at the Moscow Art Theatre and earned rave reviews. Due to the success of the play, the Moscow Art Theatre to this day bears the seagull as its emblem to commemorate the historic production that gave it its identity. Stanislavski and Chekhov collaborated to publish The Seagull with Stanislavski’s stage directions. Dr. Thomas has gone into the process of creating the Hilberry’s upcoming production by adapting much of the original staging from the Moscow Art Theatre’s original performance. In an interview, Thomas admitted that he has “learned quite a bit by looking over his [Stanislavski’s] shoulder so to speak.” He goes on to say “there are things in the staging I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of. It’s very expressive of the inner life of the characters in the play.” Thomas says he is not trying to recreate the way of life as it existed in Russia during the time. This adaptation showcases how modern characters come to terms with the same issues these characters in the play have. “It is the actor’s spirit that influences the play.”
Thomas explained that “it’s not an exaggeration to draw a connection between [Anton] Chekhov and Woody Allen. Both have objective/subjective views of the world. There are no villains. Characters are happy and sad, silly and serious at the same time and represent a humanistic viewpoint.”
A Sneak Preview of the 2009-2010 production:
The cast includes
Samantha L. Rosentrater (IRÍNA NIKOLÁEVNA ARKÁDINA, an actress), Jason Cabral (KÓNSTANTIN GAVRÍLOVICH TREPLYÓV, her son), Alan Ball* (PYÓTOR NIVOLÁEVICH SÓRIN, her brother, a retired county attorney), Carollette Phillips (NÍNA MIKHAÍLOVNA ZARÉCHNAYA, a young girl, the daughter of a wealthy landowner), Erman Jones (ÍLYA AFANÁSEVICH SHAMRÁEV, a retired lieutenant, Sorin’s steward), Safiya Johnson (POLÍNA ANDRÉEVNA, his wife), Christina Flynn (MASHA (MÁRYA ILYÍNISHNA), his daughter), Dave Toomey (BORÍS ALEKSÉEVICH TRIGÓRIN, a literary man), Brian P. Sage (EVGÉNY SERGÉEVICH DORN, a doctor of medicine), Rob Pantano (SEMYÓN SEMYÓNOVICH MEDVEDÉNKO, a schoolteacher), Andrew Papa (YÁKOV, a laborer), Sara Hymes (A COOK), Lorelei Sturm (A HOUSEMAID)
The creative team includes
Austin Gresham (Production Stage Manager), John D. Woodland (Costume Designer), Jeffrey Strange (Scenic and Properties Designer), Tim Sutton (Lighting Designer), Cara Tougas (Technical Director), and Jason Pratt (Sound Designer).
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