Timeless characters in historic metaphor

The University of Calgary Department of Drama has departed from their usual fare, presenting Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard.

This production is different in two important aspects. First, it’s a modern piece-considered “a masterpiece of modern theatre” by some. Second, it’s a collaborative effort between the Department of Drama and the Department of Germanic, Slavic and East Asian Studies.

“They weren’t really around during the rehearsal process, but in the earlier stages they helped us with pronunciations of names,” says actor Guilly Urra, pointing out that the play was originally written in Russian. “We also retranslated parts of the show to make it more true to the original Russian.”

Fellow actor Nathan Pronyshyn agreed this partnership was helpful, especially in the second translation.

“They took the the original work and compared it to the translation we had and tried to make it more accessible,” Pronyshyn says.

The story, nearing its centennial year in 2004, follows a Russian family as they lose their cherry orchard because of debt and financial troubles from an extravagant lifestyle. According to Pronyshyn, not only can present-day audiences relate to the characters’ reactions, but they also symbolize Russia at that time.

“It’s very symbolic of Russia and the Russian revolution,” says Pronyshyn. “The older generation is more traumatized by it than the younger generation, who was hoping for change.”

The play was actually written on the eve of the ussian revolution, freeing Chekov from drawing conclusions.

“It’s interesting because Chekov doesn’t take a political stance,” says Pronyshyn. “He presents both sides clinically and lets you decide for yourself.”

According to Urra, another interesting aspect of this play is characters that are easy to relate to-especially when compared to other plays the department has produced.

“They are really regular people,” says Urra. “In Shakespeare, you deal with Kings and Queens but these people are very real and very vivid.”

With this, comes a play whose themes are universal, allowing any audience to relate.

“I think if you’ve ever been broke or been in love or had a passion for something, he covers it all,” says Pronyshyn. “He touches every end of the spectrum.”

March 19 – March 30, 2002

Reeve Theatre

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