-- chekhov.HTM [sum] & chekhov.vtheatre.net [chekhov.us] 2008 --


Anatoly Smelyansky (AS): Chekhov's later plays all have farcical elements in them. Comedy is always very close to Chekhov. It's the most important part of his vision of life. Without that ingredient, Chekhov doesn't exist. The Cherry Orchard, for example, has elements of farce in its structure and characters. In 1904, The Moscow Art Theatre (MXAT) couldn't bear to stage The Cherry Orchard as farce. Stanislavsky declared it a tragedy; Chekhov insisted it was a comedy. But in 1931, Nemirovich-Danchenko restaged The Cherry Orchard as a comedy while he was in Italy. We're about to publish the letters in which he states that the Moscow Art Theatre misunderstood the play in 1904. Until the last day of his life, Chekhov felt the farcical aspects of life. Look at the letters from his last month in Germany. If he were able, he probably would have written a vaudeville about German life in a spa. [ interview ]

AS: Chekhov wrote the vaudevilles and comic short stories to make a living. He once joked, "My Bear gave me more money than the gypsies' real bears." But he never considered the vaudevilles his ultimate goal. And something happened to him in the middle of the 1880s. He had become a fairly well-established writer and doctor. And this comfortable position forced him to ask, like Ivanov: what now? And there was another impetus to move onto something bigger. In 1884 he began coughing up blood, which he undoubtedly recognized as the onset of tuberculosis. In 1887, Chekhov published his first novel, The Steppe, and the important writers of the age immediately recognized Chekhov as a new voice. And Chekhov now realized he could be a serious writer. With The Steppe, Chekhov found his own distinctive style. And with The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, he tried to bring that voice to his drama. Anton Chekhov: Later Short Stories 1888-1903 (Modern Library)

This volume presents forty-two of Chekhov's later short stories, written between 1888 and 1903, in acclaimed translations by Constance Garnett and chosen by Shelby Foote. Among the most outstanding are "A Dreary Story," a dispassionate tale that reflects Chekhov's doubts about his role as an artist. Thomas Mann deemed it "a truly extraordinary, fascinating story . . . unlike anything else in world literature." "The Darling," a delightful work highly admired by Tolstoy, offers comic proof that life has no meaning without love. And in "The Lady with the Dog," which Vladimir Nabokov called "one of the greatest stories ever written," a chance affair takes possession of a bored young woman and a cynical rou¨¦, changing their lives forever. Also included in this collection are the famous trilogy, "The Man in a Case," "Gooseberries," and "About Love," as well as "Sleepy," "The Horse-Stealers," and "Betrothed."

Selected Stories of Anton Chekov

Called the greatest of short story writer, Anton Chekhov changed the genre itself with his spare, impressionistic depictions of Russian life and the human condition. Now, thirty of his best tales from the major periods of his creative life are available in this outstanding one volume edition. Included are Chekhov's characteristically brief, evocative early pieces such as "The Huntsman" from 1885, which brilliantly conveys the complex texture of two lives during a meeting on a summer's day. Four years later, Chekhov produced the tour de force "A Boring Story" (1889), the penetrating and caustic self-analysis of a dying professor of medicine. Dark irony, social commentary, and symbolism mark the stories that follow, particularly "Ward No. 6" (1892), where the tables turn on the director of a mental hospital and make him an inmate. Here, too, is one of Chekhov's best -known stories. "The Lady with the Little Dog" (1899), a look at illicit love, as well as his own favorite among his stories, "The Student," a moving piece about the importance of religious tradition.
Atmospheric, compassionate, and uncannily wise, Chekhov's short fiction possesses the transcendent power of art to awe and change the reader. This monumental edition, expertly translated, is especially faithful to the meaning of Chekhov's prose and the unique rhythms of his writing, giving readers an authentic sense of his style-and, in doing so, a true understanding of his greatness.

The Portable Chekhov (Viking Portable Library)

Five Plays: Ivanov, the Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and the Cherry Orchard (Oxford World's Classics)

Chekhov's worldwide reputation as a dramatist rests on five great plays: Ivanov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. All are presented in this collection, taken from the authoritative Oxford Chekhov, in Ronald Hingley's acclaimed translation. Hingley has also written an introduction specifically for this volume in which he provides a detailed history of Chekhov's involvement in the theater and an assessment of his accomplishment as a dramatist.

Anton Chekhov's The Seagull (Broadway Theatre Archive) (1975)

This quintessential Chekhov drama--his first success--is both comic and tragic. A group of friends and relations gather at a country estate to see the first performance of an experimental play written and staged by the young man of the house, Konstantin (Frank Langella), an aspiring writer who dreams of bringing new forms to the theatre. Among the audience are Konstantin's self-centered mother, the actress Arkadina, and her lover, the novelist Trigorin. Their glamorous presence not only disrupts the performance, but also soon takes on a more profound significance for the lives of all those present. DVD

Understanding Chekhov: A Critical Study of Chekhov's Prose and Drama

Donald Rayfield, one of the foremost Chekhov scholar in the world, is author of the monumental 1997 biography Anton Chekhov: A Life. He is professor of Russian and Georgian, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London.

The Cambridge Companion to Chekhov (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

Anton Chekhov: A Life

A noted scholar of the art of Anton Chekhov now turns to his life (1860-1904), with equally revelatory results. Rayfield's densely documented account avoids general statements in favor of quiet accumulation of detail that gradually creates a multifaceted impression of Chekhov's contradictions. Witty, charming, and an ardent lover of women, Russia's greatest dramatist was also coolly detached, capable of capriciousness and considerable cruelty. In Anton Chekhov, Rayfield does not attempt to tidy up a messily complex psyche or to downplay the faults that were as intrinsic to Chekhov's genius as were his merits.

Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard": A Study Guide from Gale's "Drama for Students" [DOWNLOAD: PDF]

CHEKHOV w/Anatoly
new pages -- before moving to chekhov.us ... The Moscow Art Theatre finally acquired its own, brand new, building on the occasion of its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1973. The seeds of the subsequent split were sown at this point, with the separate existence of two Moscow Art Theatres—the new one on Tverskoy Boulevard and the old one off Tverskaya Street (formerly Gorky Street) where it had been since 1902. The unofficial split came about in 1986 when Oleg Yefremov, who, in 1970, had been given the task of rejuvenating the Moscow Art Theatre, relinquished control of the new building. Tat’yana Doronina (whom Yefremov had invited in 1970 to join the company from Georgiy Tovstonogov’s Leningrad Bolshoy Drama Theatre) assumed control of the new building in the name of the Theatre’s more conservative wing. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, the older theatre, named after Gorky in 1932, rechristened itself in ‘pre-Soviet’ style after Chekhov, whilst the new building retained its association with the name of Gorky. [ The Moscow Art Theatre by Nick Worrall; Routledge, 1996 ]


Future Chekhov? [ 3sis.us ]


3 SISTERS files:

3 Sisters dramaturgy

Kuprin on Chekhov

Chekhov - Love Letters

M. Chekhov -- Acting One: Fundamentals

literature diary
chekhov.html -- continue...


I. Chekhov-Chekhov

II. Chekhov XX

III. Chekhov 21


I teach Chekhov (215 Dramatic Literature and 413 Playscript Analysis) and directed Chekhov twice : "3 Sisters" and "Mini-Chekhov"...

I collected "Everything Chekhov" for classes and productions.

I still want to write about Chekhov.

Although, I didn't like Chekhov in Moscow.


I liked Brecht.

Not anymore.

If I will write about Chekhov one day, I would do it about the change that took place in me over 20 years; why his drama took over "epic theatre" compositions.

I even stopped writing my own plays because of Chekhov.

... Am I talking about "American Chekhov"?

Over one hundred years after his death I'm sure that the world discovered Chekhov.


But, first, I should talk about my "Chekhov's Pages" --

At least, three Chekhovs : 1. historical, 2. Chekhov as father of the last century drama, and, of course, 3. ChekhovNow.

I wish I could write about this playwright on Virtual Theatre pages -- Chekhov is still waiting for "new theatre" [ for extreme public solitude ].




Finding the Tragedy and the Humor in Chekhov: Kama Ginkas Stages "Rothschild 's Fiddle"
By John Freedman

Rehearsal was not going well and everybody knew it. Finally, an actor broke off in mid-sentence and sighed angrily, "I have no strength left."
Kama Ginkas, directing his own adaptation of Anton Chekhov's short story "Rothschild's Fiddle" for a January 15 world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre, didn't bat an eyelash. From his standing position in the center aisle of the theatre's empty hall, he snatched up a small plastic bottle of water and, without saying a word, fired it in a low arc over the actor's head. Instinctively, the actor leaped to catch it. Ginkas and the rest of the four-actor cast burst into laughter as the actor came back down juggling the bottle spilling water all over him.
"Just as I thought," Ginkas quipped. "You have plenty of energy!"
If anybody knows anything about energy, it is Ginkas, who at age 62 has put two serious heart attacks behind him while working a complex schedule of international productions and tours that would tax the reserves of a man half his age. Ginkas's base is the Moscow New Generation Theatre, the co-producer of the Yale-bound "Rothschild's Fiddle" which will be performed in Russian by Russian actors with English supertitles from January 15 to 31. But from August to November 2003 alone, Ginkas crisscrossed the globe touring and directing in the United States, Germany, France, Finland and Russia.
The Yale project rounds out a feverish year for Ginkas in the United States. In August he brought his famous production of "K.I. from 'Crime'" - an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment" - to Bard College's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in upstate New York, drawing rave reviews from as far away as the West coast in the Los Angeles Times. In September, he unveiled his first American production at the American Repertory Theatre - an adaptation of Chekhov's story "The Lady with the Lapdog." In October, his book "Provoking Theater: Kama Ginkas Directs" was published by Smith and Kraus Publishers.
"Rothschild's Fiddle" - telling the brief and tragic tale of the coffin-maker Yakov who is hardly more aware of his dying wife than he is of his loathing for the Jewish musician Rothschild with whom he occasionally performs at weddings - completes a trilogy almost sardonically titled "Life is Beautiful" that Ginkas has been working on since 1999. The other segments of the trilogy are "The Black Monk" and "The Lady with the Lapdog."
Although Ginkas rose to prominence largely thanks to six extraordinary and challenging productions of Dostoevsky's prose beginning in the late 1980s, it is Chekhov who has emerged as the director's most frequent source for material. He first directed a biographical play about Chekhov in 1968 and adapted the story "Ward No. 6" for the Lilla Theater in Helsinki, Finland, in 1988. But after staging "The Seagull" in Helsinki in 1996, he repeatedly has come back to Chekhov in recent years. "Rothschild's Fiddle" will be Ginkas's ninth Chekhov production and, as his shows have done in the past, it will reveal a side of Chekhov that the literary tradition often fails to recognize.
Chekhov's nature was a tragic one, Ginkas notes in "Provoking Theater," filled with "paradoxes that existed inside him" and breaches "between others' perceptions of him and his own perception of himself... Our impression of Chekhov is that he was a very proper person. But he was actually capable of being very explosive."
Even more constant throughout the director's 36-year career has been his penchant for staging prose adaptations. As he also discloses in "Provoking Theater," his attraction to stories, letters and poetry as fodder for theater began in his school years in the 1950s and only grew stronger as time went on. "Formal restrictions provide a rich opportunity for dramatic development" Ginkas writes, because they provide a "tremendous source of tension."
This reveals Ginkas's strong sense of irony and paradox as well as expressing his attempt to bring multiple layers of nuance to his productions by blurring the lines that usually separate narrative, internal monologues and spoken dialogue. In shows like "Rothschild's Fiddle," characters not only converse, they pronounce descriptive text about themselves and others. Ginkas frequently mixes things even further by having his actors say one thing while doing something else entirely, and by having them break long sentences down into short, independent phrases that send meaning ricocheting in various directions before the final meaning is revealed.
During one Moscow rehearsal, Ginkas turned a simple dialogue into a mugging scene. But the last thing he wanted was for the actors to play it straight. "When you grab Rothschild by his collar and drag him around the stage," Ginkas told his actor as he ran up on stage to demonstrate what he wanted, "you're not attacking him. You don't even notice you're doing it. It just happens on its own. What you're trying to do is talk to the audience and explain to them all of your frustrations. 'No matter what I do, I suffer losses! My life is nothing but a pile of losses!' That's what you want, is to be understood. But somehow this guy's collar ended up in your hand while you were doing it."
Throughout the whole explanation, Ginkas dragged the actor playing Rothschild around the stage on his back, appealing plaintively and sincerely to the actor playing Yakov in the exact manner and tone of voice he was after. By the time he was done, he had elicited laughter from a handful of observers sitting in the hall because it illustrated so concisely the essence of what makes Ginkas unique - his ability to reveal humor in the most tragic of incidents.
The acting duo of Valery Barinov as Yakov and Igor Yasulovich as Rothschild brings together two of Moscow's best-known actors of the stage and screen. Barinov, who is 57 years old and must beat up on Yasulovich several times in the course of the show - sometimes comically, sometimes not - is constantly hugging and apologizing to his partner before and after the rough physical scenes. Yasulovich, whose amazing agility makes one doubt seriously that he can be 62, scoffs and shrugs it off. "Just hit me," he deadpans, turning his other cheek again.
As Moscow rehearsals progressed in November and December, the depth and scope of Ginkas's aims in "Rothschild's Fiddle" began to be revealed. The themes of the developing show were so rich and dense, it seemed to pack several productions into one.
Some will see it as a profound and provocative exploration of the nature of anti-Semitism. As a miraculous child survivor of the Holocaust whose mother used to tell him, "Kama, Hitler came to kill you," Ginkas certainly intended this message to ring clearly. Yet he has never been, and likely never will be, an artist of social or moral issues. He is interested in the intricate psychology of the human being, in what makes a person tick, what makes a person violent, comical and sympathetic all in one moment.
In this light, "Rothschild's Fiddle" may emerge as a play that focuses on the fragility and frequent futility of the human experience, one that is fraught with error, confusion, ignorance and misunderstanding and then is over in a flash. If from one angle Yakov appears insensitive and even racist, from another he is as much a victim of life's inequities as anyone else. Indeed, Ginkas and Barinov are expending enormous effort to reveal this character's fundamental vulnerability.
But perhaps it is in this very effort, the work going into the production, that the primary theme of Ginkas's "Rothschild's Fiddle" lies. Yakov is a craftsman, an artist of sorts. His tools - his saw, his ax, his hammer, his workbench - are what make his life bearable and the product of his labor - the coffins he fashions - are what give it meaning, for better or for worse.
Coming back to the mugging scene another day, Ginkas wanted to get a firsthand feel for what happens when Barinov's Yakov drags Yasulovich's Rothschild around the stage. He bounded up on stage, squeezed into Yasulovich's coat and ordered Barinov to toss him down and haul him around on his backside. After gingerly following orders for a few seconds, Barinov released his director who got up briskly and without help. "Basically, I used to be able to do more," Ginkas admitted.
And a few moments later, he added, "I'm not sure where the tragedy is and where the humor is in this scene."

John Freedman is the theater critic of The Moscow Times and co-author, with Kama Ginkas, of Provoking Theater: Kama Ginkas Directs.

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