James Downs, associate professor of history and American studies, will spend the 2015-16 academic year studying medical anthropology at Harvard University.
The Department of Theater will stage a production of Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters," from Thursday, Nov. 17 through Sunday, Nov. 20. And the week before Thanksgiving may just be the perfect time to see the play.
"The scope of humanity Chekhov holds within this play is vast and compelling; 14 people sit in a living room and by the time they get to the dinner table we see love affairs begin, petty arguments flare up, family jokes, sibling rivalry, elitism, acts of kindness and existential despair," explained the play's director, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Nancy Hoffman. "The average elements of any large family dinner with friends."
Hoffman says the student actors appearing in the play are smart, brave and playful - the "essential ingredients" for those performing Chekhov. But the production's design includes an unlikely ingredient: modernity. Costumes are simultaneously vintage and contemporary and the house in which the story unfolds is more symbolic than realistic, giving the design a foot in both Chekhov's period and the present-day world. This duality illustrates the passage of time in the play, which Hoffman sees as "just a few steps away from realism."
"We've worked hard to avoid what I call the 'big dress syndrome' - no stagey wistful monologues in big dresses or poofy hair," she explained. "These characters are as alive, passionate, kind, moody, snippy, generous, selfish, devastated and/or simply having dinner as any of us are today.
"Chekhov was a doctor and a writer and we see the mix of both clinical and empathic understanding of the human experience," she continued. "See the play and you'll see your brother, your sister, the delivery guy, the annoying talkative person who's actually incredibly kind so we feel bad about being annoyed by him, and more. Chekhov truly saw people as they are."
The play will be performed in Tansill Theater, with evening performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, through Saturday, Nov. 19, and matinee performances at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20. General admission tickets are $8 and student tickets are $6.
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