Anton Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' at SOU

New adaptation is by Libby Appel
Left to right: Rachel Seeley, Chelsea Mia Acker and Hannah Gassaway appear in the SOU’ “Three Sisters.”Photo courtesy of Greg Eliason

"Three Sisters," Anton Chekhov's classic play about three young women yearning to break free of the constraints of provincial life, receives a distinctly American and contemporary feeling with a new adaptation by former Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Libby Appel.

Appel's "Three Sisters" opens Thursday, Nov. 8, in the Center Stage Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. It is the second production of this new translation; the first was in 2010 at Florida Gulf State University.

If you go

What: "Three Sisters"

When: Opens Thursday, Nov. 8

Where: Center Stage Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland

Tickets: $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students

Call: 541-552-6348 or see www.sou.edu/performingarts

"This new adaptation is very accessible, very easy on the ear," says Scott Kaiser, who directs the SOU play. Kaiser is director of company development and head of voice and text at OSF.

Appel worked from a literal translation of the Russian text by OSF dramaturg Allison Horsley.

"I am a great believer that plays need to be retranslated every 10 years or so," Appel says. "The rhythm of language and its vocabulary changes. The style of presentation also changes."

Appel says she wanted to make the dialogue "speakable for contemporary, American actors" while using Russian words, terms and names to give the play context and warmth.

"All of the characters in the play are grappling with one kind of loss or another: loss of love, loss of hope, loss of purpose, loss of family, loss of health, loss of memory, loss of wealth, loss of culture, loss of privacy, loss of home. Yet, despite these losses, the characters persevere, seeking meaning and joy in their lives," Kaiser says.

Kaiser explains that for actors, "Chekhov is very difficult. It is as difficult if not more difficult than Shakespeare. The characters are not forthcoming about what they are thinking or feeling. Chekhov is subtle, fragile and understated. The play offers wonderful challenges to student actors.

"I really want to sing the praises of how this ensemble is rising to that challenge," he says.

Chelsea Mia Acker plays Masha, Hannah Gassaway plays Olga, Rachel Seeley plays Irina and Darek Riley plays Andrey. The ensemble includes Halli Gibson, Spencer Hamilton, Nash Haschall, Scott Key, Tyler Kubat, Laurel Livezey, Ford Murawski-Brown, Joe Murley, Stephanie Neuerburg, Zlato Rizzioli, Henry Steelhammer and Samuel Wick.

Scenic designer Ryan Callahan, a theater-arts major at SOU, says he was inspired by the layout of the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., "where seemingly endless photographs displayed in black frames stand side by side and tower over spectators." He says his scenic design developed "into multilayered walls of transparent, empty picture frames" to establish a sense of loss.

Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Nov. 8-10 and Nov. 15-17, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, and Sunday, Nov. 18. Tickets cost $21, $18 for seniors and $6 for students. Subscribers to three or more plays receive discounts. Tickets are available at www.sou.edu/performingarts or by calling 541-552-6348.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.


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