Previous Chekhov Productions

The Cherry Orchard
The Sea Gull
Uncle Vanya

Critics’ Choice

"......the acting and direction enhance both the tragedy and the humor of the play. ...(in this) new translation, the dialogue seemed more contemporary, more natural than previous Vanyas I’ve seen. Quotidian’s acting company is superb. ...This production is a gem. I’m going again, and I hope to see you there.”

--Bari Biern, Metro Connection, On QTC’s production of Uncle Vanya

 

ANTON CHEKHOV

Anton ChekhovI am more and more convinced that it is not a matter of old forms nor new forms... man must not consider such forms but just write what freely flows from his soul.

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull


Born in 1860 in Taganrog in Southern Russia, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov did not have an easy childhood. His father, a failed shopkeeper, was not a good provider, and Anton assumed great responsibility for the family at an early age. By 1879 he joined his family in Moscow and immediately started his medical studies, while producing brief comedy sketches to support the family.

Chekhov was to say "…medicine is my wife, while literature is my mistress." This conflict between duty and artistic expression remained throughout his life, and often surfaced in his characters. The clear objectivity that a doctor must develop is often noted when describing Chekhov's style, yet it should not be over-emphasized; his work is not that of a coldly detached observer, but rather that of a writer with a unique insight into the human spirit.

Chekhov's short stories and sketches continued throughout the 1880's, and by the end of the decade he had produced two full-length plays, Ivanov and The Wood Demon, but with little success. Much more popular were his one-act stage farces, such as The Brute, which were very profitable.

By 1895 Chekhov made another attempt at a full-length play, but the St. Petersburg premiere of The Sea Gull was a disaster, and he avoided dramatic writing for several years. By 1898 he met two men who shared his vision of a natural theatre, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, and the Moscow Art Theatre revival of The Sea Gull was a complete success.

By this time, Chekhov's health was failing, and his tuberculosis forced him to live in the Crimea for most of the year. Encouraged by the success of The Sea Gull, Chekhov revised the failed Wood Demon into Uncle Vanya, which was produced in 1898 to good reviews. The turn of the century found him working on Three Sisters, which was produced by the Moscow Art Theatre in 1901. Despite his failing health, Chekhov married actress Olga Knipper in May 1901, and his work on the next play, The Cherry Orchard, was slowed by his illness. Chekhov was able to attend the premiere in Moscow, on his birthday, in January 1904, but he was to survive only six more months.

Chekhov's last three plays were successes, but they did not reach to level of acclaim reached by The Sea Gull. It would take sustained productions by the Moscow Art Theatre and other groups throughout the world before Chekhov's true worth as a playwright was recognized.

Along with Ibsen, Strindberg, and others, Chekhov brought a realistic style of theatre to the world. He concluded that murders, suicides, screams, and declarations of love were not really a part of normal everyday life, and were not necessary in a well-crafted play. He also held the conviction that "brevity is the sister of talent," which is exemplified by his spare, selective, yet richly detailed writing style.

There is no question that Konstantin Stanislavsky played an important role in Chekhov's success, and Stanislavsky's acting technique, now generally known as "the method," had an enormous impact on twentieth century theatre. Yet it must be noted that Chekhov and Stanislavsky were often at odds; the playwright thought that his director took the plays much too seriously, and added too many "realistic" details in the form of obtrusive sound effects and stage business. Until the day he died, Chekhov sought to have his plays staged in a lighter, sparer style. No doubt he would be surprised to see how frequently his work is produced a century later, amused at the wide range of styles, from somber, reverential readings through silly attempts at deconstruction, and pleased by the many wonderful productions in between.