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This is "Silly Chekhov" -- simple, funny -- I admire this quality to be both, serious and popular. Another one -- Shakespeare.
2004 & After

There are several Chekhov's one-act comedies I use for class projects in my acting-directing projects (finals): Wedding, On the High Road, Proposal, Bear. [public domain]

Fomenko Moscow * Chekhov'98 (The Wedding Reception)

"Along side Stanislavskii's well-known approach to Chekhov existed Vakhtangov's and Meierkhol'd's interpretations that traded the realism of the Moscow Art Theatre for theatricality and conscious stylization. Vakhtangov, escaping the influence of Stanislavskii, formulated the notion of imaginative realism — a combination of inner emotional realism and external theatrical form that can range from stylization to grotesque. For him Chekhov's plays were by no means “slice of life” pieces, but theatrical material that craved its own unique staging form. In his production of Chekhov's The Wedding, Vakhtangov found, what seemed to him, the organically Chekhovian staging form in exaggerated gestures, movements and utterance, creating a satirical, cruel and nightmarish sense of reality. Vakhtangov turned Chekhov's play into an absurd-grotesque insisting on puppet-like qualities of the characters. Meierkhol'd staged Chekhov's three one-act farces- The Anniversary, The Bear, and The Proposal —in the manner of vaudeville, highlighting the physical rather than psychological approach to Chekhov. In his 1967 staging of Chekhov's Three Sisters, Russian director Anatolii Efros followed this line of absurdity and nihilism, placing the characters into a Beckettian limbo on a stage dominated by a tree with iron leaves. In his staging of Chekov's Three Sisters, Iurii Liubimov involved the notion of distancing and breaking the stage illusion by leaving the wall of the Taganka Theatre open to reveal the noisy streets of Moscow as an ironic illustration of the yearning the main protagonists have for the metropolis. In Europe, among the numerous notable productions of Chekhov is certainly the performance directed by Otomar Krejča in Prague, whose absurdist depiction of Chekhov's stage-world as cold and cruel, had political dimensions alluding to the post-war Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia. In his staging of Cherry Orchard, the renowned Italian director, Giorgio Strehler, chose to go beyond veristic details, creating a metaphorical white-on-white scenery with an overhead membrane of petals in a diaphanous veil, moved slowly by the actor's and audience's breathing. In his 1983 staging of Uncle Vania, director Andrei Serban placed the characters in a maze of corridors where as Serebriakov in the play says “you can never find anyone.” That enabled the action to evolve in a slapstick rhythm following the tradition of Meierkhol'd rather than Stanislavskii. Some of the greatest European directors of the 20th-century tried their hand on Chekhov's plays including Brook, Bergman, Vitez, and many others." * Silvija Jestrović

Again -- Shestov on Chekhov *

* Wedding @ script.vtheatre.net

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by Anton Chekhov new


Place: Restaurant. A large table, laid for supper. Waiters in dress-jackets are fussing round the table. An orchestra behind the scene is playing the music of the last figure of a quadrille.

ZMEYUKINA, YATS, and a GROOMSMAN cross the stage.

ZMEYUKINA. No, no, no!

YATS. [Following her] Have pity on us! Have pity!

ZMEYUKINA. No, no, no!

GROOMSMAN. [Chasing them] You can't go on like this! Where are you off to? What about the grand ronde? Grand ronde, s'il vous plait! [They all go off.]


NASTASYA. You had much better be dancing than upsetting me with your speeches.

APLOMBOV. I'm not a Spinosa or anybody of that sort, to go making figures-of-eight with my legs. I am a serious man, and I have a character, and I see no amusement in empty pleasures. But it isn't just a matter of dances. You must excuse me, maman, but there is a good deal in your behaviour which I am unable to understand. For instance, in addition to objects of domestic importance, you promised also to give me, with your daughter, two lottery tickets. Where are they?

NASTASYA. My head's aching a little . . . I expect it's on account of the weather. . . . If only it thawed!

APLOMBOV. You won't get out of it like that. I only found out to-day that those tickets are in pawn. You must excuse me, maman, but it's only swindlers who behave like that. I'm not doing this out of egoisticism*--I don't want your tickets--but on principle; and I don't allow myself to be done by anybody. I have made your daughter happy, and if you don't give me the tickets to-day I'll make short work of her. I'm an honourable man!

NASTASYA. [Looks round the table and counts up the covers] One, two, three, four, five . . .

A WAITER. The cook asks if you would like the ices served with rum, madeira, or by themselves?

APLOMBOV. With rum. And tell the manager that there's not enough wine. Tell him to prepare some more Haut Sauterne. [To NASTASYA] You also promised and agreed that a general was to be here to supper. And where is he?

NASTASYA. That isn't my fault, my dear.

APLOMBOV. Whose fault, then?

NASTASYA. It's Nunin's fault. . . . Yesterday he came to see us and promised to bring a perfectly real general. [Sighs] I suppose he couldn't find one anywhere, or he'd have brought him. . . . You think we don't mind? We'd begrudge our child nothing. A general, of course . . .

APLOMBOV. But there's more. . . . Everybody, including yourself, maman, is aware of the fact that Yats, that telegraphist, was after Dashenka before I proposed to her. Why did you invite him? Surely you knew it would be unpleasant for me?

NASTASYA. Oh, how can you? Jesus! You've already tired me and Dashenka out with your talk. What will you be like in a year's time? You are horrid, really horrid.

APLOMBOV. Then you don't like to hear the truth? Aha! Oh, oh! Then behave honourably. I only want you to do one thing, be honourable!

Couples dancing the grand ronde come in at one door and out at the other end. The first couple are DASHENKA with one of the GROOMSMEN. The last are YATS and ZMEYUKINA. These two remain behind. ZHIGALOV and DIMBA enter and go up to the table.

GROOMSMAN. [Shouting] Promenade! Messieurs, promenade! [Behind] Promenade!

[The dancers have all left the scene.]

YATS. [To ZMEYUKINA] Have pity! Have pity, adorable Anna.

ZMEYUKINA. Oh, what a man! . . . I've already told you that I've no voice today.

YATS. I implore you to sing! Just one note! Have pity! Just one note!

ZMEYUKINA. I'm tired of you. . . . [Sits and fans herself.]

YATS. No, you're simply heartless! To be so cruel--if I may express myself--and to have such a beautiful, beautiful voice! With such a voice, if you will forgive my using the word, you shouldn't be a midwife, but sing at concerts, at public gatherings! For example, how divinely you do that fioritura . . . that . . . [Sings] "I loved you; love was vain then. . . ." Exquisite!

ZMEYUKINA. [Sings] "I loved you, and may love again." Is that it?

YATS. That's it! Beautiful!

ZMEYUKINA. No, I've no voice to-day. . . . There, wave this fan for me . . . it's hot! [To APLOMBOV] Dear, why are you so melancholy? A bridegroom shouldn't be! Aren't you ashamed of yourself, you wretch? Well, what are you so thoughtful about?

APLOMBOV. Marriage is a serious step! Everything must be considered from all sides, thoroughly.

ZMEYUKINA. What beastly sceptics you all are! I feel quite suffocated with you all around. . . . Give me atmosphere! Do you hear? Give me atmosphere! [Sings a few notes.]

YATS. Beautiful! Beautiful!

ZMEYUKINA. Fan me, fan me, or I feel I shall have a heart attack in a minute. Tell me, please, why do I feel so suffocated?

YATS. It's because you're sweating. . . .

ZMEYUKINA. Foo, how vulgar you are! Don't dare to use such words!

YATS. Beg pardon! Of course, you're used, if I may say so, to hight society and. . . .

ZMEYUKINA. Oh, leave me alone! Give me poetry, delight! Fan me, fan me!

ZHIGALOV. [To DIMBA] Let's have another, what? [Pours out] One can always drink. As one doesn't forget one's business. Drink and be merry. . . . And if you can drink at somebody else's expense, then why not drink? You can drink. . . . Your health! [They drink] And do you have tigers in Greece?


ZHIGALOV. And lions?

DIMBA. And lions too. In Russia zere's nussing, and in Greece zere's everysing--my fazer and uncle and brozeres--and here zere's nussing.

ZHIGALOV. H'm. . . . And are there whales in Greece?

DIMBA. Yes, everysing.

NASTASYA. [To her husband] What are they all eating and drinking like that for? It's time for everybody to sit down to supper. Don't keep on shoving your fork into the lobsters. . . . They're for the general. He may come yet. . . .

ZHIGALOV. And are there lobsters in Greece?

DIMBA. Yes . . . zere is everysing.

ZHIGALOV. Hm. . . . And Civil Servants.

ZMEYUKINA. I can imagine what the atmosphere is like in Greece!

ZHIGALOV. There must be a lot of swindling. The Greeks are just like the Armenians or gipsies. They sell you a sponge or a goldfish and all the time they are looking out for a chance of getting something extra out of you. Let's have another, what?

NASTASYA. What do you want to go on having another for? It's time everybody sat down to supper. It's past eleven.

ZHIGALOV. If it's time, then it's time. Ladies and gentlemen, please! [Shouts] Supper! Young people!

NASTASYA. Dear visitors, please be seated!

ZMEYUKINA. [Sitting down at the table] Give me poetry.

"And he, the rebel, seeks the storm, As if the storm can give him peace."

Give me the storm!

YATS. Wonderful woman! I'm in love! Up to my ears!

Enter DASHENKA, MOZGOVOY, GROOMSMEN, various ladies and gentlemen, etc. They all noisily seat themselves at the table. There is a minute's pause, while the band plays a march.

MOZGOVOY. [Rising] Ladies and gentlemen! I must tell you this. . . . We are going to have a great many toasts and speeches. Don't let's wait, but begin at once. Ladies and gentlemen, the newly married!

The band plays a flourish. Cheers. Glasses are touched. APLOMBOV and DASHENKA kiss each other.

YATS. Beautiful! Beautiful! I must say, ladies and gentlemen, giving honour where it is due, that this room and the accommodation generally are splendid! Excellent, wonderful! Only you know, there's one thing we haven't got--electric light, if I may say so! Into every country electric light has already been introduced, only Russia lags behind.

ZHIGALOV. [Meditatively] Electricity . . . h'm. . . . In my opinion electric lighting is just a swindle. . . . They put a live coal in and think you don't see them! No, if you want a light, then you don't take a coal, but something real, something special, that you can get hold of! You must have a fire, you understand, which is natural, not just an invention!

YATS. If you'd ever seen an electric battery, and how it's made up, you'd think differently.

ZHIGALOV. Don't want to see one. It's a swindle, a fraud on the public. . . . They want to squeeze our last breath out of us. . . . We know then, these . . . And, young man, instead of defending a swindle, you would be much better occupied if you had another yourself and poured out some for other people--yes!

APLOMBOV. I entirely agree with you, papa. Why start a learned discussion? I myself have no objection to talking about every possible scientific discovery, but this isn't the time for all that! [To DASHENKA] What do you think, ma chère?

DASHENKA. They want to show how educated they are, and so they always talk about things we can't understand.

NASTASYA. Thank God, we've lived our time without being educated, and here we are marrying off our third daughter to an honest man. And if you think we're uneducated, then what do you want to come here for? Go to your educated friends!

YATS. I, madam, have always held your family in respect, and if I did start talking about electric lighting it doesn't mean that I'm proud. I'll drink, to show you. I have always sincerely wished Daria Evdokimovna a good husband. In these days, madam, it is difficult to find a good husband. Nowadays everybody is on the look-out for a marriage where there is profit, money. . . .

APLOMBOV. That's a hint!

YATS. [His courage failing] I wasn't hinting at anything. . . . Present company is always excepted. . . . I was only in general. . . . Please! Everybody knows that you're marrying for love . . . the dowry is quite trifling.

NASTASYA. No, it isn't trifling! You be careful what you say. Besides a thousand roubles of good money, we're giving three dresses, the bed, and all the furniture. You won't find another dowry like that in a hurry!

YATS. I didn't mean . . . The furniture's splendid, of course, and . . . and the dresses, but I never hinted at what they are getting offended at.

NASTASYA. Don't you go making hints. We respect you on account of your parents, and we've invited you to the wedding, and here you go talking. If you knew that he was marrying for profit, why didn't you say so before? [Tearfully] I brought her up, I fed her, I nursed her. . . . I cared for her more than if she was an emerald jewel, my little girl. . . .

APLOMBOV. And you go and believe him? Thank you so much! I'm very grateful to you! [To YATS] And as for you, Mr. Yats, although you are acquainted with me, I shan't allow you to behave like this in another's house. Please get out of this!

YATS. What do you mean?

APLOMBOV. I want you to be as straightforward as I am! In short, please get out! [Band plays a flourish]

THE GENTLEMEN. Leave him alone! Sit down! Is it worth it! Let him be! Stop it now!

YATS. I never . . . I . . . I don't understand. . . . Please, I'll go. . . . Only you first give me the five roubles which you borrowed from me last year on the strength of a piqué waistcoat, if I may say so. Then I'll just have another drink and . . . go, only give me the money first.

VARIOUS GENTLEMEN. Sit down! That's enough! Is it worth it, just for such trifles?

A GROOMSMAN. [Shouts] The health of the bride's parents! [Band plays a flourish. Cheers.]

ZHIGALOV. [Bows in all directions, in great emotion] I thank you! Dear guests! I am very grateful to you for not having forgotten and for having conferred this honour upon us without being standoffish And you must not think that I'm a rascal, or that I'm trying to swindle anybody. I'm speaking from my heart--from the purity of my soul! I wouldn't deny anything to good people! We thank you very humbly! [Kisses.]

DASHENKA. [To her mother] Mama, why are you crying? I'm so happy!

APLOMBOV. Maman is disturbed at your coming separation. But I should advise her rather to remember the last talk we had.

YATS. Don't cry, madam! Just think what are human tears, anyway? Just petty psychiatry, and nothing more!

ZMEYUKINA. And are there any red-haired men in Greece?

DIMBA. Yes, everysing is zere.

ZHIGALOV. But you don't have our kinds of mushroom.

DIMBA. Yes, we've got zem and everysing.

MOZGOVOY. Dimba, it's your turn to speak! Ladies and gentlemen, a speech!

ALL. [To DIMBA] Speech! speech! Your turn!

DIMBA. Why? I don't understand. . . . What is it!

ZMEYUKINA. No, no! You can't refuse! It's you turn! Get up!

DIMBA. [Gets up, confused] I can't say what . . . Zere's Russia and zere's Greece. Zere's people in Russia and people in Greece. . . . And zere's people swimming the sea in karavs, which mean sips, and people on the land in railway trains. I understand. We are Greeks and you are Russians, and I want nussing. . . . I can tell you . . . zere's Russia and zere's Greece . . .

Enter NUNIN.

NUNIN. Wait, ladies and gentlemen, don't eat now! Wait! Just one minute, madam! Just come here, if you don't mind! [Takes NASTASYA aside, puffing] Listen . . . The General's coming . . . I found one at last. . . . I'm simply worn out. . . . A real General, a solid one--old, you know, aged perhaps eighty, or even ninety.

NASTASYA. When is he coming?

NUNIN. This minute. You'll be grateful to me all your life.*

NASTASYA. You're not deceiving me, Andrey darling?

NUNIN. Well, now, am I a swindler? You needn't worry!

NASTASYA. [Sighs] One doesn't like to spend money for nothing, Andrey darling!

NUNIN. Don't you worry! He's not a general, he's a dream! [Raises his voice] I said to him: "You've quite forgotten us, your Excellency! It isn't kind of your Excellency to forget your old friends! Nastasya," I said to him, "she's very annoyed with you about it!" [Goes and sits at the table] And he says to me: "But, my friend, how can I go when I don't know the bridegroom?" "Oh, nonsense, your excellency, why stand on ceremony? The bridegroom," I said to him, "he's a fine fellow, very free and easy. He's a valuer," I said, "at the Law courts, and don't you think, your excellency, that he's some rascal, some knave of hearts. Nowadays," I said to him, "even decent women are employed at the Law courts." He slapped me on the shoulder, we smoked a Havana cigar each, and now he's coming. . . . Wait a little, ladies and gentlemen, don't eat. . . .

APLOMBOV. When's he coming?

NUNIN. This minute. When I left him he was already putting on his goloshes. Wait a little, ladies and gentlemen, don't eat yet.

APLOMBOV. The band should be told to play a march.

NUNIN. [Shouts] Musicians! A march! [The band plays a march for a minute.]

A WAITER. Mr. Revunov-Karaulov!


NASTASYA. [Bowing] Please come in, your excellency! So glad you've come!

REVUNOV. Awfully!

ZHIGALOV. We, your excellency, aren't celebrities, we aren't important, but quite ordinary, but don't think on that account that there's any fraud. We put good people into the best place, we begrudge nothing. Please!

REVUNOV. Awfully glad!

NUNIN. Let me introduce to you, your excellency, the bridegroom, with his newly born . . . I mean his newly married wife! Mr. Yats, employed on the telegraph! A foreigner of Greek nationality, a confectioner by trade, Dimba! And so on, and so on. . . . The rest are just trash. Sit down, your excellency!

REVUNOV. Awfully! Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, I just want to say two words to Andrey. [Takes NUNIN aside] I say, old man, I'm a little put out. . . . Why do you call me your excellency? I'm not a general! I don't rank as the equivalent of a colonel, even.

NUNIN. [Whispers] I know, only, be a good man and let us call you your excellency! The family here, you see, is patriarchal; it respects the aged, it likes rank.

REVUNOV. Oh, if it's like that, very well. . . . [Goes to the table] Awfully!

NASTASYA. Sit down, your excellency! Be so good as to have some of this, your excellency! Only forgive us for not being used to etiquette; we're plain people!

REVUNOV. [Not hearing] What? Hm. . . yes. [Pause] Yes. . . . In the old days everybody used to live simply and was happy. In spite of my rank, I am a man who lives plainly. Today Andrey comes to me and asks me to come here to the wedding. "How shall I go," I said, "when I don't know them? It's not good manners!" But he says: "They are good, simple, patriarchal people, glad to see anybody." Well, if that's the case . . . why not? Very glad to come. It's very dull for me at home by myself, and if my presence at a wedding can make anybody happy, then I'm delighted to be here. . . .

ZHIGALOV. Then that's sincere, is it, your excellency? I respect that! I'm a plain man myself, without any deception, and I respect others who are like that. Eat, your excellency!

APLOMBOV. Is it long since you retired, your excellency?

REVUNOV. Eh? Yes, yes. . . . Quite true. . . . Yes. But, excuse me, what is this? The fish is sour . . . and the bread is sour. I can't eat this! [APLOMBOV and DASHENKA kiss each other] He, he, he . . . Your health! [Pause] Yes. . . . In the old days everything was simple and everybody was glad. . . . I love simplicity. . . . I'm an old man. I retired in 1865. I'm 72. Yes, of course, in my younger days it was different, but-- [Sees MOZGOVOY] You there . . . a sailor, are you?

MOZGOVOY. Yes, just so.

REVUNOV. Aha, so . . . yes. The navy means hard work. There's a lot to think about and get a headache over. Every insignificant word has, so to speak, its special meaning! For instance, "Hoist her top-sheets and mainsail!" What's it mean? A sailor can tell! He, he!-- With almost mathematical precision!

NUNIN. The health of his excellency! [Band plays a flourish. Cheers.]

YATS. You, your excellency, have just expressed yourself on the subject of the hard work involved in a naval career. But is telegraphy any easier? Nowadays, your excellency, nobody is appointed to the telegraphs if he cannot read and write French and German. But the transmission of telegrams is the most difficult thing of all. Awfully difficult! Just listen.

Taps with his fork on the table, like a telegraphic transmitter.

REVUNOV. What does that mean?

YATS. It means, "I honour you, your excellency, for your virtues." You think it's easy? Listen now. [Taps.]

REVUNOV. Louder; I can't hear. . . .

YATS. That means, "Madam, how happy I am to hold you in my embraces!"

REVUNOV. What madam are you talking about? Yes. . . . [To MOZGOVOY] Yes, if there's a head-wind you must . . . let's see . . . you must hoist your foretop halyards and topsail halyards! The order is: "On the cross-trees to the foretop halyards and topsail halyards" and at the same time, as the sails get loose, you take hold underneath of the foresail and fore-topsail halyards, stays and braces.

A GROOMSMAN. [Rising] Ladies and gentlemen . . .

REVUNOV. [Cutting him short] Yes . . . there are a great many orders to give. "Furl the fore-topsail and the foretop-gallant sail!!" Well, what does that mean? It's very simple! It means that if the top and top-gallant sails are lifting the halyards, they must level the foretop and foretop-gallant halyards on the hoist and at the same time the top-gallants braces, as needed, are loosened according to the direction of the wind . . .

NUNIN. [To REVUNOV] Sir, Mme. Zhigalov asks you to talk about something else. It's very dull for the guests, who can't understand. . . .

REVUNOV. What? Who's dull? [To MOZGOVOY] Young man! Now suppose the ship is lying by the wind, on the starboard tack, under full sail, and you've got to bring her before the wind. What's the order? Well, first you whistle up above! He, he!

NUNIN. Fyodor Yakovlevitch, that's enough. Eat something.

REVUNOV. As soon as the men are on deck you give the order, "To your places!" What a life! You give orders, and at the same time you've got to keep your eyes on the sailors, who run about like flashes of lightning and get the sails and braces right. And at last you can't restrain yourself, and you shout, "Good children!" [He chokes and coughs.]

A GROOMSMAN. [Making haste to use the ensuing pause to advantage] On this occasion, so to speak, on the day on which we have met together to honour our dear . . .

REVUNOV. [Interrupting] Yes, you've got to remember all that! For instance, "Hoist the topsail halyards. Lower the topsail gallants!"

THE GROOMSMAN. [Annoyed] Why does he keep on interrupting? We shan't get through a single speech like that!

NASTASYA. We are dull people, your excellency, and don't understand a word of all that, but if you were to tell us something appropriate . . .

REVUNOV. [Not hearing] I've already had supper, thank you. Did you say there was goose? Thanks . . . yes. I've remembered the old days. . . . It's pleasant, young man! You sail on the sea, you have no worries, and [In an excited tone of voice] do you remember the joy of tacking? Is there a sailor who doesn't glow at the memory of that manoeuvre? As soon as the word is given and the whistle blown and the crew begins to go up--it's as if an electric spark has run through them all. From the captain to the cabin-boy, everybody's excited.

ZMEYUKINA. How dull! How dull! [General murmur.]

REVUNOV. [Who has not heard it properly] Thank you, I've had supper. [With enthusiasm] Everybody's ready, and looks to the senior officer. He gives the command: "Stand by, gallants and topsail braces on the starboard side, main and counter-braces to port!" Everything's done in a twinkling. Top-sheets and jib-sheets are pulled . . . taken to starboard. [Stands up] The ship takes the wind and at last the sails fill out. The senior officer orders, "To the braces," and himself keeps his eye on the mainsail, and when at last this sail is filling out and the ship begins to turn, he yells at the top of his voice, "Let go the braces! Loose the main halyards!" Everything flies about, there's a general confusion for a moment--and everything is done without an error. The ship has been tacked!

NASTASYA. [Exploding] General, your manners. . . . You ought to be ashamed of yourself, at your age!

REVUNOV. Did you say sausage? No, I haven't had any . . . thank you.

NASTASYA. [Loudly] I say you ought to be ashamed of yourself at your age! General, your manners are awful!

NUNIN. [Confused] Ladies and gentlemen, is it worth it? Really . . .

REVUNOV. In the first place, I'm not a general, but a second-class naval captain, which, according to the table of precedence, corresponds to a lieutenant-colonel.

NASTASYA. If you're not a general, then what did you go and take our money for? We never paid you money to behave like that!

REVUNOV. [Upset] What money?

NASTASYA. You know what money. You know that you got 25 roubles from Nunin. . . [To NUNIN] And you look out, Andrey! I never asked you to hire a man like that!

NUNIN. There now . . . let it drop. Is it worth it?

REVUNOV. Paid . . . hired. . . . What is it?

APLOMBOV. Just let me ask you this. Did you receive 25 roubles from Andrey Andreyevitch?

REVUNOV. What 25 roubles? [Suddenly realizing] That's what it is! Now I understand it all. . . . How mean! How mean!

APLOMBOV. Did you take the money?

REVUNOV. I haven't taken any money! Get away from me! [Leaves the table] How mean! How low! To insult an old man, a sailor, an officer who has served long and faithfully! If you were decent people I could call somebody out, but what can I do now? [Absently] Where's the door? Which way do I go? Waiter, show me the way out! Waiter! [Going] How mean! How low! [Exit.]

NASTASYA. Andrey, where are those 25 roubles?

NUNIN. Is it worth while bothering about such trifles? What does it matter! Everybody's happy here, and here you go. . . . [Shouts] The health of the bride and bridegroom! A march! A march! [The band plays a march] The health of the bride and bridegroom!

ZMEYUKINA. I'm suffocating! Give me atmosphere! I'm suffocating with you all round me!

YATS. [In a transport of delight] My beauty! My beauty! [Uproar.]

A GROOMSMAN. [Trying to shout everybody else down] Ladies and gentlemen! On this occasion, if I may say so . . .



The "Vaudevilles" of Chekhov:

Revunov -- The "General" is an ex-naval officer, a second-class captain.

This script is used for the finnal exam of THR121 Fundamentals of Acting -- act.vtheatre.net *

Quotes & Thoughts:

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Get Site Info Chekhov -- SHOWS 2006 (farces)

On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco (1886, 1902) ("On the Harm of Tobacco")

NYUKHIN: (He enters the stage with great dignity, wearing long side whiskers and worn-out flock coat. He bows majestically to his audience, adjusts his waistcoat, and speaks.)
Ladies and ... so to speak... gentlemen. It was suggested to my wife that I give a public lecture here for charity. Well, if I must, I must. It's all the same to me. I am not a professor and I've never finish the university. And yet, nevertheless, over the past thirty years I have been ruining my health by constant, unceasing examination of matters of strictly scientific nature. I am a man of intellectual curiosity, and, image, at times I write essays on scientific matters -- well, not exactly scientific, but, if you will pardon me, approximately scientific. Just another day I finished a long article entitled: "On the Harmfulness of Certain Insects." My daughters liked it immensely, especially the part about bedbugs. But I just read it over and tore it up. What difference does it make whether such things are written? You still have to have naphtha. We have bedbugs, even in our grand piano... For the subject of my lecture today I have taken, so to speak, the harm done mankind by the use of tobacco. I myself smoke, but my wife told me to lecture on the harmfulness of tobacco, and so what's to be done? Tobacco it is. It's all the same to me; but, ladies and... so to speak gentleman... I urge you to take my lecture with all due seriousness, or something awful may happen. If any of you are afraid of a dry, scientific lecture, cannot stomach that sort of thing, you needdn't listen. You may leave.
(He again adjusts his waistcoat.)
Are there any doctors present? If so, I insist that you listen very carefully, for my lecture will contain much useful information, since tobacco, besides being harmful, contains certain medical properties. For example, if you take a fly and put him in a snuff box, he will die, probably from nervous exhaustion. Tobacco, strictly speaking, is a plant... Yes, I know, when I lecture I blink my right eye. Take no notice. It's simple nervousness. I am a very nervous man, generally speaking. I started blinking years ago, in 1889, to be precise, on September the thirteenth, the very day my wife gave birth to our, so to speak, fourth daughter, Varvara. All my daughters were born on the thirteeth. But... (He looks at his watch.) time at our disposal is strictly limited. I see I have digressed from the subject.
I must tell you, by the way, that my wife runs a boarding school. Well, not exactly a boarding school, but something in the nature of one. Just between us, my wife likes to complain about hard times, but she has put away a little nest egg... some forty or fifty thousand rubles. As for me, I haven't a kopek to my name, not a penny... and, well, what's the use of dwelling on that? At the school, it is my lot to look after the housekeepng. I buy supplies, keep an eye on the servants, keep the books, stitch together the exercise books, exterminate bedbugs, take my wife's little dog for walks, catch mice. Last night, it fell to me to give the cook flour and butter for today's breakfast. Well, to make a long story short, today, when the pancakes were ready, my wife came to the kitchen and said that three students would not be eating pancakes, as they had swollen glands. So it seems we had a few too many pancakes. What to do with them? First my wife ordered them stored away, but then she thought awhile, and she said, "You eat those pancakes, you scarecrow." When she's out of humor, that's what she calls me: "scarecrow," or "viper," or "devil." What sort of devil am I? She's always out of humor. I didn't eat those pancakes; I wolfed them down. I am always hungry. Why yesterday, she gave me no dinner. She says, "What's the use feeding you, you scarecrow..." However... (He looks at his warch.) I have strayed from my subject. Let us continue. But some of you, I'm sure, would rather hear a romance, or a symphony, some aria...
(He sings.)
"We shall not shrink In the heart of battle:
Forward, be strong."

I forgot that comes from... Oh, by the way, I should tell you that at my wife's school, apart from looking after the housekeeping, my duties include teaching mathematics, physics, chemistry, georgraphy, history, solfeggio, literature, and so forth. For dancing, singing, and drawing, my wife charges extra, although the singing and dancing master is yours truly. Our school is located at Dog Alley, number 13. I suppose that's why my life has been so unlucky, living in house number thirteen. All my daughters were born on the thirteenth, I think I told you, and our house has thirteen windows, and, in short, what's the use? Appointments with my wife may be made for any hour, and the school's propectus may be had for thirty kopeks from the porter.
(He takes a few copies out of his pocket.)
Ah, here you see, I've brought a few with me. Thirty kopecs a copy. Would anyone care for one?
(A pause.)
No one? Well, make it twenty kopecs. (Another pause.) What a shame! Yes, house number thirteen. I am a failure. I've grown old and stupid. Here I am, lecturing, and to all appearances enjoying myself, but I tell you I have such an urge to scream at the top of my lungs, to run away to the ends of the earth... There is no one to talk to. I want to weep. What about your daughters, you say, eh? Well, what about them? I try to talk to them, and they only laugh. My wife has seven daughters. Seven. No. Sorry, it's only six. Now, wait, it is seven. Anna, the eldest, is twenty-seven, the youngest is seventeen. Ladies and gentleman:
(He looks around surreptitiously.)
I am miserable: I have become a fool, a nonentity. But then, all in all, you see before you the happiest of fathers. Why shouldn't I be, and who am I to say that I am not? Oh, if you only knew: I have lived with my wife for thirty-three years, and, I can say they are the best years of my life... well, not the best, but aspproximately the best. They have passed, as it were, in a thrice, and, well, to hell with them.
(Again, he looks around surreptitiously.)
I don't think my wife has arrived yet. She is not here. So, I can say what I like. I am afraid... I am terribly afraid when she looks at me. Well, I was talking about our duaghters. They don't get married, probably because they're so shy, and also because men can never get near them. My wife doesn't give parties. She never invites anyone to dinner. She's a stingy, shrewish, ill-tempered old biddy, and that's why no one comes to see us, but... I can tell you confidentially...
(He comes down to the edge of his platform.)
on holidays, my daughters can be seen at the home of their aunt, Natalia, the one who has rheumatism and always wears a yellow dress covered with black spots that look like cockroaches. There you can eat. And if my wife happens not to be looking, then you'll see me...
(He makes a drinking gesture.)
Oh, you'll see I can get tipsy on just one glass. Then I feel so happy and at the same time so sad, it's unimaginable. I think of my yough, and then somehow I long to run away, to clear out. Oh, if you only knew how I long to do it! To run away, to be free of everything, to run without ever looking back... Where? Anywhere, so long as it is away from that vile, mean, cheap life that has made me into a fool, a miserable idiot; to run away from that stupid, petty, hot headed, spiteful, nasty old miser, my wife, who has given me thirty-three years of torment; to run away from the music, the kitchen, my wife's bookkeeping ledgers, all those mundane, trivial affairs... To run away and then stop somewhere far, far away on a hill, and stand there like a tree, a pole, a scarecrow, under the great sky and the still, bright moon, and to forget, simply forget... Oh, how I long to forget! How I long to tear off this flock coat, this coat that I wore thirty-three years ago at my wedding, and that I still wear for lectures for charity!
(He tears off his coat.)
Take that: And that:
(Stamping on the coat.)
I am a poor, shabby, tattered wretch, like the back of this waistcoat. (He turns his back showing his waistcoat.) I ask for nothing. I am better than that. I was young once; I went to the university, I had dreams, I thought of myself as a man, but now... now, I want nothing. Nothing but peace... peace.
(He looks off stage. Quickly he pick up his flock coat and puts it on.)
She is here. My wife is there in the wings waiting for me. (He looks at his watch.) I see our time is up. If she asks you, please, I beg you, tell her that her scarecrow husband, I mean, the lecturer, me, behaved with dignity. Oh, she is looking at me.
(He resumes his dignity and raises his voice.)
Given that tobacco contains a trrible poison, which I have had the pleasure of describing to you, smoking should at all costs be avoided, and permit me to add my hopes that these observations on the harmfulness of tabacco will have been of some profit to you. And so I conclude. Dixi et animan levavi!*
(He bows majestically, and exits with grand dignity.)
The End

Anton met the actress Olga Knipper for the first time on September 9, 1898, during rehearsals for his play The Seagull. He was 38 and she was 10 years younger. Shortly after their meeting, Chekhov, who had advanced tuberculosis, went south from Moscow to Yalta in the Crimea for the good of his health. He took with him memories of Olga's voice, her nobility and warmth. He told a friend that if he had staying on in Moscow he would have fallen in love. Olga, like the rest of the company, found Chekhov's charm overwhelming. Soon a correspondence developed between them, Anton relying on Olga's letters to keep him in touch with the wider world. Courtship and marriage followed, characterized by brief meetings and long separations; but their relationship, founded on love, was sound. Their letters to each other were a source of joy and consolation, through illness and separation.

Chekhov, descend from serfs and trained as a doctor, had supported his family since 1879. As well as tending the sick, he busied himself visiting school and establishing libraries. But Chekhov earned most of his income selling comic stories to magazines. Gradually he raised his literary sights, and by the time he met Olga he had a growing reputation as writer and dramatist.

Family necessity brought Olga to the theater too. When her apparently well-off father died in 1894, he left his family heavily in debt. To earn a living Olga gave music lessons. In 1895 she entered drama school, and three years later joined the new Moscow Art Theater. When Anton met her--a tall and elegant woman, with dark-brown hair, vivid eyes, and an expressive face--she and the company were about to take Moscow by storm with a vibrant interpretation of The Seagull. They brilliantly revealed the passion he concealed beneath the quietly comic surfaces of Russian life. This same wry sense of humor sustained the sensitive writer throughout the years that he suffered from the debilitating symptoms of tuberculosis.

In May 1899, with spring in full flower, Chekhov invited Olga to his mother's home in the country. In her memoirs Olga recalled happily,

"We had three days filled with a sense of anticipation, with joy and sun."

Over the summer they corresponded, Chekhov addressing her with,

"Greetings, last page of my life, great actress of the Russian land."

Their relationship took a decisive turn in August, when Olga, who was staying with family friends in Yalta, traveled back to Moscow with Anton. Part of the way took them by carriage through the beautiful Kokkoz Valley. There they came to some kind of "agreement". Anton later wrote to Olga saying how he scarcely went into his beautiful Yalta garden, but sat indoors and thought of her, remembering their journey together. He wrote,

"I warmly press and kiss your hand. Be well, merry, happy, work, skip about, be enthusiastic, sing and, if possible, don't forget the retired author, your devout admirer. A. Chekhov."

Olga became his mistress in the summer of 1899, flirtation turning to a deep and sincere love. Their life was full of partings, and they were separated for long stretches. Chekhov lived n warm, dull Yalta, while Olga continued her career in glamorous but cold Moscow. However, that summer chekhov, partly through fear and partly out of consideration, was slow to propose. On August 13, Olga complained to Chekhov's devoted sister, Masha,

"Can anyone come to a decision with him?"

The following month, on September 27, Chekhov wrote defending himself,

"If we're not together now, it's not my fault or yours, but that of the devil who implanted the bacilli in me and the love of art in you."

There were many things to consider. How would marriage to Anton in far-off Yalta affect Olga's acting career? What about Masha, who had turned down offers of marriage to look after him? Would the strain of marriage, as Masha believed, be too much for Anton? Chekhov himself had an inner core of loneliness, made worse by his illness, that made him afraid of committing himself to another person. Sometimes his good-humored self-sufficiency seemed to Olga like indifference.

Eventually, however, he gave in to pressure, and they married, secretly and happily, on May 25, 1901, in Moscow. To avoid any fuss or sentimentality, Anton invited most of his friends and relatives to a dinner in Moscow, which he and Olga deliberately failed to attend. Even Masha and her mother first heard the news by telegram. In his plays and prose, Chekhov had often portrayed marriages as either comic or unhappy. Perhaps he was embarrassed to have succumbed at last, after so many years of flirtations and short affairs.

But in December 1902, he had one regret, he wrote,

"We have one fault in common, we married each other too late."

After the wedding their long separations continued. A child might have kept them together, but Olga miscarried. Then, inevitably, Chekhov's illness worsened and on July 1, 1904, he died. Olga was at his bedside. At the last, he was given champagne. Glass in hand, he smiled and said,

"It's a long while since I've drunk champagne."

He drank it, turned on his side and died moments later. A huge black moth suddenly flew in through the open window, batted wildly against the lamp, and then found its way out, leaving silence. Olga later consoled herself with the recollection:

"There was only beauty, peace and the grandeur of death."

* "I have spoken and relieved my soul." (Latin)

Analysis and presentation in class *

Breakdown and Actor's Text (copy)

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An online course supplement * 2005-2006 Theatre UAF Season: Four Farces + One Funeral & Godot'06
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