The New School for Drama is in rehearsal for a creative adaptation of several plays by Anton Chekhov that combines them into one new work called Branches: The Chekhov Project. This collaborative project, conceived and directed by Drama faculty member Casey Biggs and adapted by Drama’s director of professional development, Robert Hoyt, explores the commonality of theme, character, structure, and action in Chekhov’s The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya, as they are played out side-by-side, and on top of each other, in this innovative amalgamation of his works.
I think those four plays are absolute works of art, and I felt challenged to use the entire company of second-year MFA acting students since we don’t often have opportunities to work with a large cast these days,, says Biggs. It is also an opportunity to challenge myself as a director and for the actors to be challenged, because this work calls on every single bit of training they receive at Drama, craft, technique, personalization, you can’t do this work without it.,
The challenge of pulling the themes out of the plays to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, and being able to create a new script from them is what inspired him, Biggs explains. We are The New School after all, so why not do something new?,
The players have taken an active role in working with the adapted text by discovering different and effective translations and are collaborating with the artistic staff on everything from costume pieces to properties and staging. In addition, the second-year directing students have assumed roles as associate directors, responsible for individual story lines, overseeing rehearsals with each play’s company of actors, and providing dramaturgical input to support the new play’s structure, overall tone, and aesthetic. Biggs has been synthesizing all this into a unified whole to create a collaborative and cohesive new production.
Siri Hellerman, a second-year acting student and member of the cast, describes the experience as a truly collaborative process. Even though I’m only in the Three Sisters sections of the new play, we’re all involved in some way in the other plays, as well as in the entire work,, Hellerman says. It’s been really great to learn about all of the original plays, it’s like a master class in Chekhov.,
Performances are Thursday through Saturday, February 24’26, at 8:00 p.m., with a matinee on Saturday at 3:00 p.m., at The New School for Drama Theater, 151 Bank Street, 3rd floor. Admission is free, general seating, but reservations are recommended by calling Ticket Central at 212.279.4200 or visiting www.tickets.ticketcentral.com.
Visit the Drama website for more information.