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U.Va. Department of Drama Continues Season with Chekhov Classic, 'The Seagull'

February 10, 2010 — What do you get when you put a fascinating and disparate group of characters in a single house and watch as they wrestle unrequited love, lust, ambition, jealousy and the intoxicating allure of celebrity?

When you put it all in the hands of one of the most gifted minds in theater history, you get Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," which continues the 2009-10 University of Virginia Drama Department season.

Translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by U.Va. drama alumna Amanda McRaven, "The Seagull" will be presented at the Culbreth Theatre Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 24-27. All performances begin at 8 p.m. There will be a post-show talk-back with the director and members of the cast on Feb. 25. Tickets are $14 for the general public; $12 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members; and $8 for students.

Chekhov's script pulls back the curtains on a Russian farmhouse to reveal a collection of indelible characters whose lives and longings have fascinated generations of theater lovers. The play is as relevant, if not more relevant, than ever before, McRaven said.

"The theme of unrequited love resonates with everybody, and in Chekhov's plays you often have these people living together in a big house, so there are characters in constant close proximity to people they are desperately in love with but who don't love them back. I feel like this is something we all have been through in some way," she said.

Another relevant aspect, she said, is one that is almost overpowering in our society today.

"The play is also about celebrity worship, about what we think celebrities are versus what they are in real life," she said. "You have Arkadina, the central character, who is a major actress on the level of a Meryl Streep. She brings with her a writer with great storytelling talent that gives him a certain magnetism and appeal. The two create a sort of dramatic vortex in the way celebrity can.

"The people around them will do anything for them. You have young Nina, who will do anything to pursue her own acting dreams, and Arkadina's son Konstantin, a tortured playwright himself. What I love about the play is even the estate manager, the guy who plows the fields, used to be an actor and loves theater and performing."

The student actors have eagerly embraced everything about the play and the process of finding its resonance for them, she said. "I think they recognize the dustier qualities in the script and they are eager to find the life in it for them. So they really embrace discovering the sensuality, and there is a lot of that in the script."

Part of this embrace, she said, lies in the actors accepting who they are, as opposed to trying to be what they are not. "This is a young company, so we are embracing that quality and that they are telling a story but not trying to be old. The oldest couple in the play is in their mid 50s, so this allows our cast to play the sensuousness without worrying about playing what is not true, because they are only 24. I am basically letting them discover what they believe in the script and working together to make decisions on that every day."

Tickets for all spring semester productions can be purchased online [link to: http://www.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu/]; by phone at 434-924-3376; or in person at the Arts Box Office, located in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre, weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. A $3.50 processing fee applies to Internet, phone and mail orders.

The season will continue with Sarah Ruhl's smart and funny "Dead Man's Cell Phone" in the Helms Theatre, March 25-27, March 30-31 and April 1-3; and the favorite musical theater fairy tale, "Pippin," in the Culbreth Theatre, April 22-14, April 28-30 and May 1.

Free parking is available at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, located alongside the theaters.

For complete information on the 2010 Spring Season, visit here.

— By Jane Ford

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