Part Two: The Seagull Project tells us more…
A couple of days ago, you met Brandon J. Simmons and The Seagull Project– and it was great!
Today, however– I’d like to zoom in on the insight Brandon (et al.) offered me on The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov’s masterful play being presented by The Seagull Project at ACT, which was rewritten and elaborated into Taphouse by (Chekhovian fiend), Kiki Penoyer.
The following was pulled from an interview with Brandon. Enjoy!
R: What about this show resonates most clearly with a modern audience?
B: “I think there is a palpable sense of anxiety in our culture right now. The economy is wobbly, we don’t know how to address issues of racism, or these huge gaps in income across our culture, we struggle to connect, and we don’t quite know what to do. There’s no major cause to rally behind. …there’s this weird sense of impending danger and doom, but, for the most part, we’re all (Americans at least) pretty safe. And then something like Ferguson happens, and it seems very unsafe again, but for the most part we go about our lives, but inside there’s a very unsettling feeling. What do we do?
I think Three Sisters addresses that feeling more palpably than any play I’ve read. It places that question of “what do we do with the time we have” squarely on stage. If that question is presented with honesty and integrity, then we might see ourselves truly in the shoes of people who came before us, and those will come after us. This does a number of things, not the least of which is to offer very real solace, a sense that “it’s okay, it’s going to be okay.” But it also forces an audience to look at their actual life, and how it’s being spent. It offers no answers, but that’s it’s strength.”
What elements present the greatest difficulty in translating the piece for a modern audience?
“Chekhov was a master. He is speaking directly to us. He only requires a competent company of artists to present the work. What we bump into as actors is our bad habits and our egos, or our ideas. …the greatest potential we possess as a company is the possibility of creating a way of training as an ensemble, to unlearn bad habits, and master good ones, like direct action, ease of movement and speech. Simple stuff. But as American actors, trained (or not) in a certain way, we tend to complicate or overlook things which is, of course, so Chekhovian. …one thing we’re starting to learn really well in this company is to simplify our actions, to know what we want, and to play for it clearly. So in that sense, the greatest difficulty is ourselves. The material is entirely lucid.”
What does Chekhov do that other writers don’t?
“…the thing that strikes me over and over again about Chekhov, aside from the deep humanity of his plays, and his extraordinary generosity as a dramatist, is his faith and trust in actors. ..he trusted that we’d read them carefully enough to gather the information we need, without spelling everything out. He has a character say “I’m so tired,” and he trusts that we understand that that character isn’t really like “Oh, I just need a nap, and then everything will be all better,” but that we might look at ourselves and realize that when we say “I’m tired,” it’s usually because we’re avoiding something. I, for instance, get really tired whenever the conversation turns away from me to someone else. I’ll be talking about myself, I’m all lit up, and then suddenly the conversation turns to someone else and, voila! Suddenly I’m tired! …It’s because I’m a narcissist. Or my fiancee will bring up a money conversation, and suddenly I’m yawning when a minute ago I was laughing! Why? Because money stresses me out, not because I’m actually tired! It’s being human. Chekhov trusted that we’d understand that. That trust comes from the same source from which he writes these rich, deeply sympathetic characters.”
< < < The Three Sisters, presented by The Seagull Project, opens Tuesday January 20th, tickets can be found here. Don’t delay! > > >