Story by Nicole Towne, University Center for the Arts publicity intern
It’s a Tuesday evening at the University Center for the Arts. Director Walt Jones sits at a table just below a stage filled with birch trees, women dressed in long skirts and corsets, and men outfitted in street clothes and tall black boots. Jones mimics the sound of a grandfather clock, and his actresses jump into a dialogue about the passing of time. Showtime is just over two weeks away.
Three Sisters, a Russian classic written by Anton Chekhov, will grace the University Theatre at Colorado State University for two weekends starting Sept. 29.
The comedy was first performed in 1901 in Moscow. The play, originally written and performed in Russian, has been translated by Jones and the help of his late friend Dragon Klaich.
“I gave [Klaich] the Russian texts, and he wrote a literal translation, which doesn’t flow, but it does give someone who doesn’t speak Russian an idea of what the Russian words are,” Jones said. “Then we went really slowly through the text and tried to frame it as a contemporary translation that breathes and doesn’t seem as antiquated as some of the original translations did.”
Despite being written over a century ago and taking place in a country thousands of miles away, Jones said there are opportunities for people today to connect to the play.
“What the characters want is very contemporary,” Jones said. “There’s nothing in it that people won’t relate to or recognize from their own families.”
There is drunkenness, jealousy, desires for fame, hunger for wealth, and wishes of being elsewhere, which the characters embody.
“All of the characters are spirited and prejudiced against each other. Everyone has an axe to grind,” Jones said.
Jones added that the play is highly charged and filled with emotion. Part of the challenge is getting the actors to be as authentic as possible.
“There are scenes in which there is anger, there is weeping, there is laughter, and all [the emotions] need to be real and justified,” Jones said. “So that’s been the biggest challenge, but the actors have been rising to the challenge for sure.”
An acting debut
“It’s a funny play. It’s a unique comedy, but a comedy nonetheless,” said theatre performance major Jake Richardson.
Richardson is playing the role of Second Lieutenant Rode, who is part of a military battery that is in town. This is his first official acting role and his first theatre performance.
“This is my first year as a theatre major. I was previously a wildlife biology major, but over the course of my freshman year I did a lot of introspection,” Richardson said. “I ended up deciding that I wanted to be an actor, even though I didn’t have a lot of experience. So halfway through my sophomore year I made the switch and became a theatre major.”
So far, Richardson has been enjoying his time being part of the production.
“I have loved every minute of it,” Richardson said. “Walt is pretty much the first director I have ever worked with, but I enjoy his style of directing. He’s in charge, but he does a really good job of collecting input from everyone, which I appreciate. The cast is really fun … I’ve been really enjoying it.”
A veteran’s impressions
For junior theatre major Sydney Fleischman, Three Sisters is her sixth production at CSU. Last fall she was cast in a leading role as Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.
In Three Sisters, Fleischman has taken on a smaller role. She plays the part of the prankster maid who messes with one of the sisters. She is seen on stage, but does not have any lines.
Fleischman said her experience with the play has been humbling.
“[Being in this production] made me realize that theatre is theatre, no matter what part you play. No matter who you are, you always play an important role,” Fleischman said.
Three Sisters will premiere Friday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the University Center for the Art’s University Theatre. It will run through Oct. 8., with evening performances Thursdays through Saturdays, and Sunday matinee showings on Oct. 1 and 8. Tickets are available at csuartstickets.com.