Section: Arts

Students, professors to perform tragicomedy The Seagull

Students, professors to perform tragicomedy The Seagull

by Julia Waldow | Arts Assistant

When asked if they would be willing to grow a beard or dye their hair or skin to take the stage, cast members knew Kenyon’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull would be different from other plays.

“It’s fun to watch all the guys who haven’t shaved since we started rehearsing,” Alex Minton ’17 said. “Everyone’s not well groomed, and it’s the look of the times.”

Set partially in turn-of-the-century Russia and partially in contemporary America, the tragicomedy details a playwright’s complicated struggle to please his mother, find love and become a well-known writer while also deviating from society’s artistic norms.

Directed by Assistant Professor of Drama and Film James Dennen, the play will be performed in the Bolton Theater from Thursday, Jan. 30 to Saturday, Feb. 1. Beginning at 8 p.m., its runtime will be around two and a half hours.

“The play involves a number of compelling social issues,” Dennen said. “My hope would be that people are persuaded enough by the realism to be moved by a truly tragic story.”

The cast includes actors and actresses from all class years, as well as Professor of Drama Wendy MacLeod and Assistant Professor of Drama Benjamin Viccellio, both of whom help to bring a new level of expertise to the diverse cast.

“I was really intimidated during auditions because there were scenes we had to do with [MacLeod] or [Viccellio], so coming into the show, I was a little nervous … because they’re really great,” Minton, who plays Medvedenko, said. “But it’s been a really cool experience working alongside them. They’re not higher than us in rehearsals. We all work together.”

Max Pescherine ’17, who plays the protagonist Constantine, also finds the group’s encouraging attitude and chemistry comforting as he navigates through his first Kenyon mainstage production.

“I was nervous at first that people would be kind of frustrated that I got the role [as a first year], but people have been really nice and helpful,” Pescherine said. “The director’s been pushing me to get the best possible stuff out of me, and I’m thankful for that and for the opportunity.”

To create the best possible production, the cast rehearses three hours a day, six days a week. According to Anna Yukevich ’16, who plays Nina, every cast member is called to rehearsal at one time, making each session a “lab-type environment” and a time for experimentation, brainstorming and bonding.

“It’s definitely quite a time commitment, so it takes a lot of focus and energy, but it’s also a lot of fun,” Minton added. “[Dennen] doesn’t really tell us everything we need to do. He kind of lets us figure things out and make discoveries on our own. He wants us to do what comes naturally.”

Subsequently, the actors are constantly being pushed to explore their characters and their scenes on new and deeper levels.

“I [am] being challenged and pushed harder than I ever had been,” Pescherine said. “In high school, once it got to a certain point … it was kind of complacent. It is definitely hard to get a lot more criticism than I’m used to and work through that and not get down on myself for not being as good as I want to be in that moment. It’s really taught me to fight through the criticism and learn from the criticism and make the performance the best that I can.”

The actors are not the only ones pushing themselves, however. The play’s designers, which include Kenyon alumna S. Katy Tucker ’03, strive to create enticing special effects, such a projection screen that shows scenery shots and a surprise element Dennen asked be kept secret until the play’s premiere.

“[The surprise] takes away from the world of the video [on the projections]. It brings [the shot] off of that screen into a more tangible [world],” Technical Director Chris Ellsworth said. “I always love people to say, ‘How do they do that?’ I always want people to be surprised. It’s not something that you’d see coming.”

Ultimately, the play’s plot, onstage chemistry and design elements make for a worthwhile production, according to the cast.

“It’s really exciting to be part of a production of this caliber,” Minton said. “We’ve been rehearsing for quite a long time, so I’m excited for people to see it.”


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