Harrison Long

Students will explore the art of Chekhov

By Cheryl Anderson Brown

Chekhov-Stanislavski-Chekhov. The work of this Russian trinity of modern theatre is at the core of a new yearlong project recently launched by Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Harrison Long. Under Long’s guidance, six T&PS majors will delve into the performance of plays by Anton Chekhov employing acting techniques developed by his nephew Michael Chekhov and by Konstantin Stanislavski.

The yearlong project, which has been funded by a Creative Activities and Research Experience for Teams (CARET) grant from the KSU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, will include several exclusive workshops and research opportunities. The students will use these tools to produce a Chekhov play on campus and to write a scholarly article.

“The Department of Theatre and Performance Studies encourages all of our students to observe the social forces that govern the roles they play from day to day, both on and off stage,” Long says. “No playwright, in my experience, illustrates the consequences of personal acts more vividly than Anton Chekhov.”

Some of Chekhov’s most well-known works include “The Cherry Orchard,” “The Seagull” and “The Three Sisters.”

“A thorough investigation of Chekhov’s dramatic works will provide a powerful opportunity for students to experience the crucial relationship between artistry and scholarly research,” Long says.

All of the participating students are currently enrolled in Long’s advanced acting class on Anton Chekhov. On Feb. 26, they will participate in a master class on Michael Chekhov’s acting technique led by KSU Provost Lendley Black, a Russian theatre scholar who has written a biography of Michael Chekhov.

In April, Russian master teacher Sergei Tcherkasski of  the St. Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy will lead a five-day workshop on campus, focusing on rehearsal techniques employed by Konstantin Stanislavski during productions of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”

Then, in May, Long and his team of student artist-scholars will travel to New York where they will participate in a Michael Chekhov Symposium at the The Actor’s Center, led by J. Michael Miller, founder of New York’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts and president of The Actor’s Center. Chekhov and Stanislavski scholars Joanna Merlin and Lendley Black also have agreed to participate. Long also hopes to include Danish expert Per Brahe.

After the symposium, the students will have access to the archives at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, will attend a performance of a Chekhov play and will visit several renowned acting studios that teach techniques evolved from the Stanislavski technique.

After returning to campus, the students will use the insight they have gained to stage a production of Chekhov’s “The Marriage Proposal” in August and to complete their scholarly investigations, which will be presented at both the KSU Symposium of Student Scholars and the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Spring 2008, and which will be submitted for publication in professional journals.

“I know first-hand how important it is for students to comprehend the historical, social and performance contexts of the material they are presenting,” Long says. “The benefits of this approach reach far beyond the classroom or even the proscenium arch.”


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