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 sought to match at every step.
On October 15, 2013 the Pirandello Society of America sponsored a reading I adapted and directed of Pirandello’s The Giants of the Mountain, with nine actors and two visual artists, who took turns at drawing the characters so precisely described by the author’s stage directions. The play is a “myth” between fable and reality that Pirandello continued to imagine, write, and rework from 1929 to 1934, but eventually left unfinished despite encouraging contracts with American impresarios. Yet, in its present form, the play vibrates with the powerful contradictions of sublime Art torn between the inner necessity to reach out to spectators who may not understand it and the temptation to abandon the world altogether. It was, in the playwright’s opinion, the culmination of his artistic endeavors.
“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 Alschitz, 40 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.
Verminous game, thou art caught! Ensnared as a loathsome bug stuck in the great spider’s silken strands.
Jason Sofge, The Tortured One
The Tortured One was developed for the May 2013 Forward Flux collaborate:create “Power of Silence” 3-week residency at Theaterlab. For more info click here. With David Riley and Joyana Feller.
As we struck up a conversation on our first creative meeting, Jason Sofge had an idea for a character to be able to use silence as a weapon. In this harsh power struggle, one character would always speak, while the other would remain silent throughout.
In addition to the peculiar disproportion in the dialogue, the final text provided a fascinating directorial challenge: how to stage a piece in which, due to the extreme violence described in detail in the text, what occurs can hardly be shown on stage in a realistic fashion? With the freedom we were given to explore by the playwright, the actors and I discovered an uncanny territory of ambiguity between the heightened language of the piece and an everyday situation around a tea table.
In April 2013 I was selected as one of the 20 resident artists for a three week marathon on the theme “The Power of Silence” produced by Forwardflux at Theaterlab in New York City.
This was an awesome experience made of fruitful discussion and unexpected discoveries, but most of all of intense collaboration with artists from many disciplines, including visual arts, dance, and even advanced mathematics. Additionally, since I was involved in four projects overall, I enjoyed stepping out of my usual role of director and perform as actor in a couple of them.
For more info, pics and videos, click on the titles below.
Cherry Blossoms, an exploration of the pauses between words in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Director.
The Tortured One, a one act play by Jason Sofge on “weaponized silence”. Director.
Singer, a staged reading inspired by Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Director and actor.
Frameables by Dan O’Neil. Actor.
The residency culminated in a 3 hour performance on May 19, 2013 that took over the three spaces at Theaterlab. For the full program click here.