Chekov Shorts: The Proposal and The Bear Opens at The Long Beach Playhouse
2014-06-10 · By Editor
Long Beach Playhouse audiences are in for a very original and unique treat because opening this weekend in the Studio Theatre is a production called Chekov Shorts: The Proposal and The Bear. Diane Benedict is not only the director for the show but has translated these two one act plays from Russian to English. Interestingly, she has interspersed in the middle of these two pieces an adaptation (again her translation) of one of Chekov’s short stories, The Bet that she turned into another one act play. She chose these three pieces because of the vaudevillian nature of the stories. We tend to associate Chekov with his more serious plays like-The Three Sisters, The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, etc., but he wrote wonderful, rich comedies that are exemplified in this production. Setting for The Bear is in the Ural Mountains on November 14, 1880. The Proposal is set near Moscow on November 13, 1885, and The Bet, set in St. Petersburg, spans the years from 1870 to 1885.
Diane is a professor of theatre arts at Loyola Marymount University with a specialty in Stanislavski and Russian theatre. She first got interested in Russian theatre and Chekov specifically while taking an acting class from Darryl Hickman (brother of Duane Hickman of Dobie Gillis fame). Darryl asked her to prepare one of Sonja’s monologues from Uncle Vanya. She was hooked. Why? She will tell you-because of the subtext, the balance of comedy and pathos, and the internal conflict that Chekov characters endure.
Her love affair with Russia began in 1989 when she was chosen to represent UCLA (during her MFA program) at the Podium Theatre Festival in Moscow. During her month in Moscow she met a young couple, Sasha and Alina Lazarev. A friendship developed because of their common interest in theatre and Alina’s outstanding English skills. Diane quickly learned that Sasha was the son of Natasha and Alexander Lazarev , a famous acting family revered in Russia not unlike the Barrymore family here in the United States. Over the years Diane maintained her friendship with the Lazarev family. In 2004, Diane received a Fulbright Award and was able to return to Russia to see her friends and to continue her studies. This is the year she really learned the language. She admits that reading Russian is much easier than speaking it. Since plays are all dialog the challenge for Diane was to be able to truly use Russian colloquialisms. Diane acknowledges that she frequently asked for Alina’s help while translating the Chekov Shorts to make the dialog as authentic as possible.
We asked Diane what she would like the audience to walk away with from this production. She was very clear-she does not want to give the audience answers to any questions. Instead she hopes that she gives you the questions and that you will search for your own answers. This is a very Russian point of view. In contrast, in German theatre, the expectation is for a clear vision with specific outcomes. This Chekov quote sums up the Russian point of view: “The role of the artist is to ask questions, not to answer them.”
Come and enjoy this funny evening of Chekov never before done in the same way with an original translation.
Special Events For This Play:
Pay what you can Thursday June 12 – community can see this production for whatever they can afford
Two for One Preview Friday June 13 – Tickets are $12.00
Opening Night Champagne Reception with cast on June 14- Tickets are $27.00
Adults are $24.00, seniors $21.00, and Students $14.00.
Tickets are available at www.lbplayhouse.org, or by calling 562-494-1014, option 1.