"The Marriage Proposal" engages actors and audiences
By Lauren Highfill
Comedy. Farce. Vaudeville. These are just a few of the ways Anton Chekhov’s play “The Marriage Proposal” has been described—and with good reason. The one-act play centers on an arranged marriage between neighbors that’s befuddled by ridiculous accusations and over-the-top arguments. Russian-born Chekhov gave the actors only one act to harmonize the story and tone, so they must come prepared and hit the ground running. The shortness of the piece lends itself to quick and exaggerated mood changes, and results in a hilarious turn of events. It is a challenging piece that an ensemble of Kenensaw State University has been working for months to re-create on campus. Their special production runs this week in the Studio Theater.
Because the play can be so funny, the audience might be surprised by the serious theme of the play. “Pride and self-love preclude the characters achieving what they really want,” says student-director Stephanie Wiernik. “Chekhov is very insightful and honest about human beings. We keep ourselves from what we want and create a lot of havoc just by being our less-than-perfect selves.”
This season’s performance of the 1899 play is part of a yearlong research project of Chekov and theatrical innovator Konstantin Stanislavsky. Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Harrison Long is leading the group of six KSU students in the project, which is made possible by a grant from the KSU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. “It’s been inspiring to witness the way the students have created this production,” Harrison says. “They’ve gone far beyond what I’ve assigned them to do.”
Part of the students’ preparation included research and workshops with some of today’s top Chekhov and Stanislavki scholars during a trip to New York City.
Students in “The Marriage Proposal” are implementing Stanislavsky System techniques, one of which proposes that the actors stay in character both onstage and off. For this production, “the actors were required to know as much as possible about their characters’ intimate lives,” says Wiernik, “and to live those lives with as much loyalty to their imaginations as possible.”“The Marriage Proposal” performances are at 8 p.m. Aug. 23-25 in the Studio Theater. Admission is free.