The classic Russian author Anton Chekhov wrote in a way that resonates with the most basic human emotions: love, complacency, depression, denial, longing for something more. UVU’s department of theatrical arts performed “The Seagull” by Chekhov in the Noorda Blackbox Theatre March 1.
Jeremy Sortore, the director, approached this piece with a different Russian tradition than what is usually seen in the United States. Sortore’s years studying at the Moscow Art Theatre School, where “The Seagull” was originally debuted in 1896, gave him the ability to see this production for what it was truly meant to be.
Sortore said he was more interested in the “humanity of the text.” He explained that too often this play is cursed with “samovar syndrome” —when the actors and director focus on the historical accuracy to the point that they lose the emotion and audience along with it.
When talking about his process for directing the play, Sortore said, “I wanted to break down the director hierarchy.” Russian theatre culture is generally a more collaborative process.
Sortore wanted the actors and crew to read the play and share their thoughts, rather than dictate everything. Even the light, sound and set design showed levels of creativity that can only be accomplished with diverse ideas.
“[Sortore] knows the rules well enough to know how to break them,” said freshman theatre major Anthony Kunz who played Yevgeny Dorn.
One of the ways Sortore broke the rules of production was by adding a dancer. When he reached out to the dance department, Sortore knew he needed someone who could bring his idea to life.
Becca Penn-Pierson, choreographer and dancer, was that person. She portrayed the spirit of artistry through performing as the seagull during two major monologues and other emotional scenes throughout the production.
“The actors have you in the palm of their hands,” said Adam Packard, a freshman studying theatre arts education, specifically referring the scene where Nina and Constantine were reconnecting after being apart for a year and the seagull/dancer brought to life the emotions of their lost love.
Gentrio Saddler, a theatre arts freshman, said her favorite moment was between Constantine and his mother Irina when she was replacing his wrap on a head wound. Through most of the play, the two characters constantly fight. “It was the most loving moment”, Saddler said.