Letters from the Rehearsal Room

February 19, 2014

Dear Audience-

During rehearsals for the first production of Three Sisters at the Moscow Art Theatre, thousands of miles separate playwright Anton Chekhov from the performers. While they rehearsed in Moscow, he was confined toYalta, >buy a resort town with a more temperate climate, for his health. Chekhov strove to stay connected by writing letters to just about everyone involved in the production—from the director and producer to most of the actors, especially the actress playing Masha, Olga Knipper, who would become his wife. These letters offered Chekhov—and us—glimpses into a rehearsal process from which he was often otherwise removed.

Anton Chekov and Olga Knipper, 1901

Anton Chekov and Olga Knipper, 1901

As we rehearse our new production of Three Sisters, we wanted to offer the same opportunity to you that those letters offered Chekhov—a window into a process that can sometimes seem far away. Each Wednesday, we’ll post letters to you on the Arden Blog sharing insights and stories from where we are in the process. Whether you read one a week or all the night before you visit the theatre, you’ll get a sense of how this production of Three Sisters evolves throughout rehearsals and performances.

We are now in our third week of rehearsals. We spent the last two weeks interrogating this new translation (and the translator, Curt Columbus), unpacking the back story, and falling in love with Chekhov’s characters. With each new day, we discover that Irina, Masha, Olga, and the rest are not so different from us: the girl from a privileged background who wants to change the world, the woman with a job she doesn’t like who keeps getting promoted, the men whose favorite pastime is arguing with each other, the fiancée who doesn’t feel welcome, the friend who can’t grasp social norms, and the brother who would rather hide in his room than face his failed prospects. Already, we have found the characters of Three Sisters to be people with rich inner lives that are often loud and funny, even when they are frustrated or hurt, not unlike the people we know in our real lives.

We are also starting to understand Tuzenbach’s line from Act II: “It’s snowing outside. What’s the point of that?” much better than we ever thought possible. Hope you are staying warm!

Sally Ollove
Three Sisters Dramaturg

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