About this sample
About this sample
Words: 3720 |
19 min read
Published: Jul 17, 2018
Words: 3720|Pages: 8|19 min read
Anton Chekhov embarked on the creation of his theatrical masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard, in December of 1902. Initially conceived as a four-act farce, Chekhov labored on this project while grappling with the debilitating challenges of emphysema. It was nearly a year before he eventually submitted it to Konstantin Stanislavski and the Moscow Art Theatre, where it had been eagerly anticipated. Much to Chekhov's surprise and initial dismay, Stanislavski's reaction was far from what he had envisioned. Upon reading the play, Stanislavski sent a telegram to Chekhov expressing his profound admiration: "Just read play...shaken...cannot come to senses in unprecedented ecstasy...sincerely congratulate author genius." This overwhelming reaction troubled Chekhov, as he had not intended for a farce to evoke such intense emotions (Hingley, New Life, 300).
As the initial disparity between Chekhov's intentions and Stanislavski's interpretation became evident, it marked the beginning of a substantial divergence in their viewpoints regarding The Cherry Orchard. Stanislavski was adamant about staging the play as a realistic and tragic portrayal of the declining aristocracy, a perspective that deviated significantly from Chekhov's original vision (Benedetti 190). This disparity in their interpretations became more pronounced during the rehearsal phase, leading to a growing discontent within Chekhov.
Chekhov's dissatisfaction with the tragic overtones of The Cherry Orchard escalated as the play garnered attention. He expressed his frustration in a letter to his wife, Olga, stating, "Why do they persist in calling my play a drama on the posters and in press announcements? Nemirovich and Stanislavski absolutely do not see in my play what I actually wrote, and I am ready to give my word in any terms you wish that neither of them has ever read my play attentively" (Benedetti 190). When Chekhov finally arrived at the rehearsals, he was disheartened to witness his play mired in melancholy and desolation. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Chekhov made changes to the production, which led Stanislavski to lament, "the blossoms had just begun to appear when the author arrived and messed up everything for us" (Simmons 612). The brevity of the fourth act, as envisioned by Chekhov, was transformed into a protracted and tearful episode lasting forty minutes. Despite their conflicting viewpoints, both Chekhov and Stanislavski felt compelled to compromise to maintain the progress of rehearsals, albeit with a growing sense of skepticism about the play's prospects. Chekhov himself confessed to a friend, "I expect no particular success... the thing is going poorly" (Priestley 58). Even after the premiere, Chekhov's sentiments remained unchanged, as evidenced by his letter to a friend: "My play was performed yesterday, and therefore I am not in a particularly bright mood today" (Magarshack, A Life, 382).
Although it is tempting to attribute some of Chekhov's frustration to the impatience of a man facing his own mortality, his concerns were rooted in genuine grievances. During the rehearsal process, Chekhov engaged in heated disputes with Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko over their differing interpretations of the play. In a letter to Nemirovich, he queried, "Why do you say there are many weepy people in my play? Where are they? Varya's the only one, and that's because she's a crybaby by nature. Her tears are not meant to make the spectator feel despondent. I often use 'through her tears' in my stage directions, but that indicates only a character's mood, not actual tears. There's no cemetery in the second act" (Karlinsky 460). Donald Rayfield, in addressing the matter of tears in a comedy, observed that characters such as Ranevsky, Anya, Varya, Gaev, and Pishtchik shed tears, but they do so "for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time. The music of the play does not harmonize with their tears: the ball in Act 3 is a series of quadrilles and waltzes of comic irrelevance" (Evolution, 220). This discord between Chekhov's intentions and the execution of the play's emotional elements exemplifies the growing divide between the playwright and the director, Stanislavski.
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