Posting Date: March 06, 2013
Kennesaw State presents “In the Twilight: The Chekhov Project”
Performances feature unique adaptations of Chekhov’s short stories
By Tracey Cordle
“In the Twilight: The Chekhov Project” stages several Anton Chekhov short stories in adapted, dramatic form. With missed connections and the pursuit of love as its through-line, “In the Twilight” juxtaposes moments of comedy, tragedy and suspense to capture the intensity of human experience. Presented by KSU’s Department of Theatre & Performance Studies, “In the Twilight” is co-directed by Interim Chair and Professor Karen Robinson and TPS faculty member Margaret Baldwin. The production will run in the Onyx Theater from March 19-24, with showtimes at 8 p.m. Tues-Sat and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Baldwin initiated the project, immersing herself in studying Chekhov's short stories and personal letters. “I admire Chekhov as a writer and I wanted to learn from him and examine how he tells a story,” Baldwin says. To tell an adapted tale, Baldwin adds, “You have to find your voice in an adapted work. You have to ask, 'what resonates now?'” For the “In the Twilight” team, Chekhov's musicality, tonal shifts and ability to capture the human spirit in relationships resonated the most.
While planning the transposition of several Chekhov stories to contemporary American settings, Baldwin and Robinson sought “a variety of material to reflect one of his characteristic traits as a playwright and short story writer: his skillful and compelling tonal turns. The pieces range from broadly comic to heartbreaking encounters between characters who fervently desire to connect, but fail to do so,” Rob
Once stories were selected and adapted, the cast, directors and adapters engaged in a six-week development process. “We involved the students in the development of the new works and they became part of character creation,” Baldwin says. As the team collaborated, characters grew to tell their stories through gestures and props instead of relying solely on narration and dialogue.
The ensemble was not the only place where students were able to grow. When Anterior Leverett, a junior TPS major, expressed an interest in playwriting, Baldwin issued a challenge: adapt one of Chekhov's stories into a script in just two days. Leverett completed the challenge and worked through six drafts of her script with the actors and directors. “This opportunity to write demonstrates that the professors trust their students,” Leverett says. “They are showing me my potential, just how creative I can be.”
Valetta Anderson, an Atlanta playwright and the third adapter to work on “In the Twilight,”
commented that she was able to observe Robinson leading the students through dramaturgical work that included “the examination of their characters’ motivations, backgrounds and the symbols.” Anderson called this a “remarkably eye opening experience that seldom happens to such a degree so early in the development of a new work.”
Through detailed development and investigation of their characters, the sixteen-person ensemble is able to breathe life into “In the Twilight.” The actors highlight Chekhov's dramatic shifts in tone and spark both laughter and sadness through movement, spatial relationships, active dialogue and poignant pauses. Many students in the ensemble will be appearing on the KSU stage for the first time. Robinson says the large cast “represents our ongoing efforts to get all of our students involved in our production seasons very early in their KSU careers.”
Though the stories were written decades ago, Baldwin says Chekhov is relevant in times of transition because he captures contradictions. “It's not easy to define right and wrong. What is sad becomes hilarious. Things are not black and white. Life happens in the gray areas,” Baldwin says, adding, “Life happens in the twilight.”