“If you want to work on your art, work on your life.”
Anton Chekhov and The Moscow Art Theatre
Anton Chekhov’s play starts with a homecoming, bringing moments of hope and joy. In our journey, Bloom brings the same moments of hope and joy; the moment where the orchard is the most beautiful. In Bloom, you are taken behind the scenes as it recounts the plans for the live production of The Cherry Orchard such as set design and costume.
Written by Afnan Tag
Anton Chekhov was born in 1860 in Taganrog, Russia. He graduated from the medical school of Moscow in 1884 which made him become a doctor. Chekhov chose to be a Doctor to provide for his big family. However, Chekhov is a writer who wrote around 588 short stories and he is a playwright who wrote multiple plays, within that, there are 4 major plays; The Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1897), The Three Sisters (1901) and The Cherry Orchard (1904). Beyond this, Chekhov is known to be a humorist, humanist, landowner, environmentalist and social activist. Because of these roles and characteristics that Chekhov had, his plays were embarked with themes that connect directly to these roles. The tragedy in Chekhov’s life is his health, at the age 24 he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis which didn’t have a cure at that point. However, this didn’t stop him from writing, although through his letters to his wife Olga Knipper it is clear how much he was struggling to write, especially when he was writing his last play, The Cherry Orchard.
The Moscow Art Theatre came together because of a historical meeting, between Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and Konstantin Alekseev, known as Stanislavsky. Nemirovich and Stanislavsky wanted to create a new theatre, that’s against the high styled theatre of the nineteenth century. So they aimed to create a true ensemble of theatre through realistic production and performance, and they knew that Chekhov is the right playwright for such a big and ambitious dream. During that time, Chekhov was struggling with failure, after his production in St Petersburg of The Seagull failed, it was the moment where he swore he would never write ever again. This made it hard for Nemirovich and Stanislavsky to convince Chekhov to do the production but at the end he agreed. As they expected, the first live production of The Seagull was so successful, that even till now, The Seagull is the Emblem of The Moscow Art Theatre. This marked the starting point of the Moscow Art Theatre, and it became the home of Chekhov’s plays. After a few years, and after a lot of hard work as Chekhov battled his illness, he finished the manuscript of The Cherry Orchard in 1904 and it’s first production was in the same year. This marked Chekhov’s last work, and one of the greatest.
Beyond Chekhov’s time, The Moscow Art Theatre continued to be the centre of theatrical productions. After years of being involved with The Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavsky owned a countryside house in Lyubimovka, 30 Km outside of Moscow. This house is a family house that has been passed on generations. Due to Stanislavsky’s influence in the family, it became an Artist Colony, where artists can gather together to create any form of art or individual artists can solely work on their own form of art, with the fact that all expenses covered by the colony. Our Creative Collaboration class resembles an Artist Colony, where many different kinds of people and forms of art come together to create something big. For us, it was the production of The Cherry Orchard.
Written and Constructed by Cade Aguda, Maha Essid and Afnan Tag
The lighting designers had big plans for The Cherry Orchard’s lighting in the Black Box. Having considered the lighting design for the play very carefully, during the planning of the play earlier in the semester, the lighting team met once a week to discuss and coordinate.
During certain critical points for the play, the lighting would have changed to reflect the mood. For instance, during Lopakhin’s speech at the end of Act III, or when the sound of the broken string was heard. Acts 1 & 4 were supposed to be nearly identical, and Act 3 would have some red and gold for the appearance of an elegant party. For Act 2, the characters are outside as the afternoon fades into evening, and a timed light that would slowly turn darker as the act went on would have been used. A lot of lighting would have had to be worked out in conjunction with costumes and set.
When the play moved online, the lighting team tried to ensure lighting consistency across all frames by eliminating backlighting and prioritizing natural light. Though there were far fewer tools to work with, the team did manage to get everyone to hold a candle in their frames in one of the acts. Shooting with just one take allowed the team to ensure lighting continuity throughout each of the acts.
Inspiration images for the Lighting Plan
Created by Maha Mohammad B , Ameera AlSaid and Mohammed Muneeb-Ur-Rehman
The Set Designers went through different phases when working on the production, but what they learnt from it is, the set is one of the most important parts of any play. It creates the world, for the director, for the actors and most importantly, for the audience. The set design team first built a scale model based on the location of our play: the black box theatre at NU-Q. The model resembles the sets for the four different acts. While the set was being worked on, mood boards were created in which the colors and themes of the sets would be highlighted and maintained when the sets actually comes together. And finally, the sets for the four acts of The Cherry Orchard were created.
Designed by Noor Haddad, Ria Sayadi, Maryam Gamar, Mariam Feroun
Drawn by Aesha Hussein and Maha Mohamad B.
From measurements and sketches to fittings, the Costume team were elbows deep in their craft when they were hit with the news of the online play. Like the rest of the group, they jumped over that hurdle gracefully. The following are the sketches of the possible costumes for the cast in the live performance based on the characters.