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Check out Chekhov’s “the Seagull” to explore life in the arts

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Anton Chekhov may have written in the 1800’s, but his themes are timeless, so Richard Epp is looking forward to directing Chekhov’s 1895’s play “ The Seagull” in the David Spinks Theatre, Feb. 15-19.Getting ready for the Seagull. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’ve  directed the other three major Chekhov plays that are still performed ( Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and the Cherry Orchard,) so now, with ‘The Seagull’ it  will be my fourth and all of them,” said Epp who also plays the supporting role of Dr. Dorn.


“I have had a special interest in Chekhov’s works ever since I played  Uncle Vanya. He has a way of putting real life characters on stage so it feels like you are watching real life . It’s absolute genius,” Epp said, noting the 12 member cast features a  variety of both students and University of Lethbridge faculty members and  alumni  to properly convey the age difference between the characters.


“ In Chekhov’s plays  there is generally a large age difference. Because you have younger characters who are learning from the older characters, having actors (of a wide range of ages) is almost a necessity. You really get a sense of the age difference here, ” he continued.


The Seagull explores the complex relationships and conflicts of an eccentric collection of characters visiting a sprawling country estate. Early on, it is apparent that playwright Konstantin loves his mother Irina, but is jealous of her fame as an actress and depressed about his own lack of success. He is also furious with the celebrated young writer, Trigorin, who is living with Irina and seems to have captured the attention of Nina, the girl he adores. From the moment Konstantin’s play is presented to family and friends, everything begins to go wrong.

“It’s a play about writers and ambition and a life in the arts,” Epp summarized adding that is one of the timeless themes in the play. It also allows him to work with former colleague Dr. Brian Tyson again in a Chekhov play.
“He used to write reviews for the Herald and he’s a retired  University of Lethbridge professor. And I worked with him in ‘the Cherry Orchard.’ So it’s great to have him in the cast,” Epp continued.
“I play Dr.  Dorn. It’s a supporting role, a character who looks after the old man, played by Dr. Brian Tyson,” Epp added, noting it has been an interesting experience  to both act and perform in the play.

“ It was somewhat difficult because you can’t see yourself. But I have an assistant director who is watching my scenes. I’m hoping I can lead from within the play which is how some film directors,  who also act in  their productions, do it,” he said adding acting in the play gives him a different perspective of the production.
‘The Seagull’ is developing well.

 


“We’re at the stage where we’re just adding the technical elements. The cast is well prepared and we start  rehearsing with costumes next week. Once you put on the costume, you aren’t who you are anymore, you become that character” he said, adding the costumes  are modern, though the dialogue will be the same.


“There}s references to horses, but everybody knows what they are, and  references to medicine which  isn’t used anymore. But it translates very well today, because the characters are just like anybody else. They have the same ambition and they fall in love, after all, they are still people,” he continued noting another unique feature of the play is it takes place in a theatre of the round, so the audience, surrounds the stage. They will be sitting amongst a forest of trees constructed for the show.
“It’s not a full round, it’s three quarters so the audience is very much part of the production,” he said adding he is looking forward to opening night.


“I always watch for the growth of the production. Reading the play is one thing, but producing  it on stage is like bringing something to life,” he said.
 ‘The Seagull’  runs in the David Spinks Theatre at 8 p.m. each night, Feb. 15-18 with two showings at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., on Feb. 19. Tickets are $15 regular, $10 seniors and students.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

A version of this story appears in the Feb 9 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times

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