Why I chose the play & the scene:
I chose to look at The Cherry Orchard because Chekhov’s plays although satisfying the elements of realism, also manages to overcome its limitations. It communicates more than is said through disguised soliloquies (spontaneous burst of hidden thoughts and inner emotions) and the messenger element, which overcomes the limitations of keeping to the present moment on stage by informing the audience of key dramatic incidents taking place off stage. While studying Chekhov during my last year of high school, I became very intrigued and slowly engrossed by Chekhov’s aim to write a truly realistic play in which the character’s involved themselves in life’s trivialities. It fascinated me that despite seemingly “nothing” happening on stage so much valuable knowledge, insights and experiences were communicated beneath the ever-repeating conversations about leaving for Moscow (in the case of The Cherry Orchard, but also the Three Sisters), the scattered progression of the dialogue of the fallen aristocracy and the cross communication between characters about irrelevant topics. From a performative aspect, despite the realistic nature of the drama acting the characters portrayed is quite a challenge due to the Chekhovian nature of his plays, as Chekhov mixes comic and tragic elements at the same time. This is one of the main reasons, why I chose to focus on the scene between Anya and Trofimov in the second act. During this scene, the clash between values of modernity and values of old Russia really come to surface through the characters, who both yearn for a better life, yet cannot seem to overcome the activation energy to do so. Yet, their dreams, the awkwardness of their love for each other, and their naivety shines through within the context of “modern” Russia.
The acting preparation necessary :
Trofimov’s character is very complex, and striking the right balance between making him appear as a heroic visionary and an emotionally immature student is more than difficult. In order to set myself into the right frame of mind, and remind myself of Chekhov’s supposed intentions for the Trofimov, I re-read the pages of analysis and notes that I had created years ago. From this I created a mental picture of Trofimov as an object of Chekhov’s irony, not his voice, who is concerned more with Russia’s historical memory of its past. He combines idealism, intellectualism, and lofty ideals, with an unwillingness to recognize rights to affection (as seen in the seen when he exclaims “We are above love”). Furthermore, I watched the 1962 performance of the scene with Judi Dench and Ian Holm (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai3a-lyKFbU) twice and followed along with the script, trying to study how Ian Holm translated Trofimov’s extended comments about the working class and ongoings about lofty ideals into a gripping, deep performance. I used this to try and apply some of it to my own acting of his character. Once Julia and I came together we blocked the scene together, exchanged thoughts about the characters and how they relate to each other, decided on what version of the translation we were going to use (we had two options) and then ran through the scene twice to see whether our blocking worked and to become more familiar with the extended comments Trofimov was making, as well as the overall flow of the scene.
I actually hadn’t read Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in quite a long time – so long, in fact, that I had hardly any memory of what it was about. I had a couple ideas while searching for a scene from a play to select. I first considered the most recent play I had read for my music class, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee. This realistic play, paints a dramaticized portrait of a torn, volatile marriage. It’s dramatic, exciting, tense, and an incredible piece of literature and performance. However, I rejected this idea upon further thought – how could I, a 20 year old student, attempt to portray a drunken, middle-aged woman or man? I suppose that’s what acting is about. The infeasibility of playing a role so utterly different from myself also became an issue when I considered several of the plays I’ve read recently, such as Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks and Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar. These reads, while fantastic, realistic, and heart-wrenching, centered around racial and social issues that I could not begin to comprehend or accurately portray. We talked extensively in class about what kinds of bodies are allowed to play certain roles. As a minority, especially in theater, I believe it’s important to consider these things while selecting roles.
For this reason, I was actually quite intrigued when Kami requested a scene partner for The Cherry Orchard. I immediately accepted. First, because I needed a scene partner. But I also accepted because this Chekhov play was so unknown to me, that I couldn’t begin to fall into a spiral of doubt and fear regarding whether or not I could feasibly play the character. Kami presented a list of scenes from which I could choose for us to record. After reading through the selections, I settled on one in which I could see a clear relationship between the characters, and a clear motive. I’m fascinated by the idea of exploring an isolated scene from a play without knowing the outer context. I’m excited to see what information and emotion I can pull from this single scene and character without worrying about the overall context of the show and world that I live in. To prepare for this scene, Kami and I read through the scene twice, blocked it, and watched a video recording of the scene online. Thanks, Kami, for inviting me to do this scene with you!