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Plays Portfolio 5

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The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Theaterlab, New York City.
The 110th anniversary of The Cherry Orchard prompted me to stage this phenomenal play with my company, on the exact dates of the anniversary of its premiere at the Moscow Art Theatre. For this show I wore several hats: director, producer, set designer, event manager, translator, and a few others. You can find the Playbill for the show, including my director's notes, here.
Here's the promotional video for the show, which captures the mix of serious and funny that Chekhov writes in every line and we tried to match at every step.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1323cUef_og

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#FFCC00fadetrue
Photos: Jeff Becker © 2014
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#FFCC00fadetrue
Photos: Jeff Becker © 2014
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#FFCC00fadetrue
Photos: Jeff Becker © 2014

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Cherry Blossoms (from Chekhov)

Theaterlab Gallery, New York City.

What is there in the empty space of the role? [...] You have to discover material for the role and organize the scenes in pauses, between phrases, between the lines and even between words.

Jurij Alschitz40 Questions of One Role
Cherry Blossoms was developed for the May 2013 Forward Flux collaborate:create "Power of Silence" 3-week residency at Theaterlab. For more info click here. With Rebecca Tucker and Kelly Sloan.
I see silence as the zero-point energy of theatre, the point where everything can be created from nothing. How can a short scene expand – and to what extent – into a longer piece, and at what distance lines and fragments of the text can still cohere or instead become other?
To attempt a response to this question, in “Cherry Blossoms” I explored the silence between lines and words, as a place for events to occur in the absence of speech.
The actors and I devised three versions of the same brief dialogue from the first act of Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. Two sisters, Anya and Varya, reunite after one of them has been on a long trip. The different lengths of these versions – about 1, 3, and 5 minutes – depend on how the silence in the interstices of the text is either ignored or allowed to blossom.
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Ohio lmpromptu by Samuel Beckett

Some obscure black-box room in snowy Madison, Wisconsin
In this theoretically infused production I worked with Stephen O’Connell, a talented MFA actor, to deconstruct the idea of “presence” by having the actor play both parts of the play, first in front of a mirror, then to a video of himself previously recorded.
Below you can find both the final product and a series of steps that led to it. For a director, the process is at least as important as the “end” result.

Final presentation

Rehearsals

The first day of rehearsal was a lot about finding various approaches to the text in a constant process of exploration, starting with the alliterative sounds in the play. Although the video is not always in focus – directing and filming at the same time is not advised 😉 – this rehearsal demonstrates a post-modern style of acting/directing that does not ever come to a closure, while at the same time never giving up on potential further meanings. It also details the game of mirrors that will produce the final video.
The second day we tried to gauge the boundaries of the text, from a jazz version to a more expressive one with words only, up until an esoteric experiment of inner displacement in front of a mirror (first part). Finally we tapped into the forces of the four elements: water, air, fire, earth with surprising results (second part).
The third day’s rehearsal tried to blend all layers previously explored, but was also mostly devoted to figuring out how to record a video of the Listener to be played, later, to the same actor playing the Reader.
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La Traviata from Giuseppe Verdi and Alexandre Dumas

Teatro del Tempo, Parma, Italy
For this dinner theatre show, I combined scenes from Verdi’s opera and Dumas’ La Dame aux camélias, with music played by an ensemble directed by Alessandro Nidi (Parma Conservatory). Two sets of performers, four actors and three singers, led the audience into the depths of passion as seen through the different conventions of spoken and musical theatre. The show had a lot of coverage in the newspapers and on TV since it was held during the year of the celebrations for the first centenary of Verdi's death.
Read a series of articles published by the newspaper Gazzetta di Parma including a glowing review by Valeria Ottolenghi here. (in Italian, translations coming soon...)
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#FFCC00fadetrue
Here is an 11 minute promo of the show:
Hover to see inside of program
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The Seagull (A Fragment) from Chekhov

Stanislavsky's House Museum, Moscow, Russia
The final directing project of the professional development “School after Theater” session held in Moscow consisted in choosing a short section of Chekhov's The Seagull to be performed as an entire show. I worked with four actors from the Swedish National Theatre, plus many master class participants who were called to embody the dreams and expectations of the protagonists in the background. I directed in English, while the performance was in Swedish: despite the short (but intense) rehearsal time, I was impressed by the combination of focus and flexibility demonstrated by the players, which resulted in a really crisp performance. Plus, this was even more exciting as it was held in Stanislavsky’s own “chamber theatre.”

A close-up of Stanislavsky's portait

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