How I Learned to Vanya/Sam

So Ist Das Leben

I was once told that the best way to write something was to write backwards. Get a good strong ending and work your way back. During the last weekend, I went through a lot. The fever. The dislocated shoulder. The grappling with the fact that everyone that saw Vanya couldn’t help seeing how similar we are.  But for the first time, relinquishing a character wasn’t difficult. Of course, it’s impossible to fully eradicate the character from me. When you put on someone else’s scope, you yourself gain a new life lesson. A lesson that was a lifetime in the teaching. But to give up the burden of Vanya, is a blessing. As much of a blessing as having the opportunity to play the part. I think back to one rehearsal when we were rehearsing the scene where Vanya is told that the estate will be sold. After doing the scene three times, I went to Thomas relieved to get a break. Upon giving an sigh of relief, Thomas gave me a perplexed judging look. As if I wasn’t happy or greatful to be doing what I was doing. I was of course happy to perform, but I was not happy as I transitioned back into being Sam. I operate under a few key assumptions. Everyone at some point has considered suicide of some form; everyone is pursuing an objective at all times and is therefore after something; and, important to this situation, the amount of grief a four year old can experience at the loss of ice cream can be of a similar vein as a man losing his wife based on proportional life experience. When I was taking off that bathrobe and getting ready to sit down, I was walking away from my Sam equivalent of the time my house was being taken from me. I was walking away from my own personal baggage at some level. Because although I was not thinking of that time in particular and nor was I embodying some sort of method acting technique, my body’s shape and movement held that same tension.

I also hated being a good person for so long. One of the big acting teachings I got from the O’Neill that I would have never picked up at Duke was the idea that the best actor was the best person. That your interpersonal relationships within the cast and with every one of your acting partners is dependent on your not holding judgement or criticism or spite. All of these elements can make the rehearsal space (a place where freedom and creativity must reign) toxic and murky. There were many times where I wanted to blow up at people or storm out of rooms or push the exact buttons I knew to make someone cry. But I didn’t. And I grew because of it. This terrible experiment of making college students work on a show together for a period ranging from 8-4 months has made me realize that thinking before I speak is essential. That their are two sides to every opinion and that I have no right to assume that I am not in the wrong. This wasn’t a characteristic that Vanya had unfortunately. But I was smart to avoid absorbing his temperament. I would even go to say that Vanya acted like an anti-idol for me in some categories. His inability to see the situation he was in and push forward was the motivation for many of the decisions that I have made through this rehearsal process. His combination of Sloth, Misogyny, and Self-hatred are all aspects that I actively try to avoid in my day to day life. But when I was on stage I did feel, from time to time, that I had the right to indulge in these horrific mannerisms. I would, if only for a second, sit in my chair and feel true laziness before snapping back into being an actor playing Vanya with an activated spine, flexed abdominal cavity, and fixed relaxed shoulders.

I felt like these moments where I was just letting myself be him felt good. Not because of the obvious reasons, but because it alleviated the tension I had when I first got the role of Vanya. The apprehension at the thought of playing a huge character in such an iconic show. The apprehension went away within the first week of rehearsals in September, but I can’t say that the casting didn’t play into mindset. Being originally cast as Professor and then having to re-audition to get the part I wanted made me feel unworthy at some level. The constant thought of being “Another Vanya” instead of being “One Vanya”. But that was before I thought about the summer I had experienced. The summer that, in my opinion, was the only reason I was able to sky rocket in talent and be able to play Vanya. The summer where I had worked and sweat and cried. The summer where I shadowed a cast of Broadway actors on a production of a developing play where a key phrase from the play echoed in my head. The last lines of the play.

So Ist Das Leben

Special Thanks

One of the reasons why I love the theatre is because it is, at its core, a collaborative experience. This collaboration exists in many forms including the director and designers, the director and actors, and among the actors themselves. Each of these combinations is integral to creating a work of theatre and yield beautiful, magical results that are sometimes unexpected and often greater than the sum of their parts. However, a collaboration that I think is often overlooked is that between the actors (or rather what is on stage) and the audience.

I have heard people say that technically theatre can take place without an audience. While this may be technically true (the key word being technically), I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around the concept. In my opinion, the audience is another character, no more or less important as the characters cast from the beginning. The audience breathes life into a play, bringing a palpable tension, excitement, and spark to the piece. Without the audience, the piece would ultimately become stale.

In regards to Uncle Vanya, I have heard that some found the doubling to be a bit confusing and hard to follow at times. While it is important to think about how the doubling concept may have been made clearer, I think that challenging the audience to think critically and differently is one of the best things a piece of theatre can do. The audience is smart and should be treated as such. To spell everything out for the audience would, in my opinion, be boring and a bit rude. Additionally, in asking the audience to take part in figuring out what is going on, the collaborative aspect is heightened and as a result, the feeling that we’re all in this together (a feeling that I refer to as “the happiness”) fills the space. “The happiness” creates an unbreakable bond between everyone at each specific performance and everyone who has ever seen the show – a bond that lives on, way past when the curtain comes down.

Reddy’s post that he forgot to do over the weekend

During rehearsal, one of my main responsibilities is helping to set up and track props. In addition to maintaining the integrity of the script, I think the purpose of the props/costumes is to add a dimension to or emphasize a trait of the character that operates them. For example, when the Professor rings the bell to get the attention of the other house members, the strident discord of the sound underscores the melodramatic nature of the man himself. I think the piano represents Yelena’s freedom and her passion. Just as she is prohibited from playing the piano by the Professor, she is prevented from escaping and flying away by her obligation to the man. Vanya’s bathrobe depicts his transition from an intelligent, respectable man to a more languid man with his emotions in disarray. I am excited to see the final props and how they fit into what we have done already.


Because I have been on book for the last few rehearsals, I think I’ve read Vanya at least five times over, but I’ve discovered new interpretations, noticed lines that I had ignored, and made deeper connections with the plot each time around. For example, when Yelena says something along the lines of “Dont worry, I’ll be old too in five or six years blah,” to the Professor, I merely thought she was attempting to sympathize with the Professor’s old age and ultimately, get the Professor to stop whining. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time we had gone through it until Jeff pointed out and I realized that it was also an affirmation that she would still be with the Professor five years down the line. Another example occurs when the Professor mentions “his unmarried daughter” when he makes the speech about selling the estate. It took a couple of read-throughs until I realized how much this contributed to Sonya’s sorrow, as she is again reminded of her desolation, and knows she will never be with her hunky loverboy Astrov. This has made me question if I’ve ever truly understood any book that I’ve read only one time around.


I also have a new found appreciation for the work that Hillary and the rest of the cast do. The sheer amount of time and effort a stage manager puts into organizing the show is astounding. Actors also have to work on many things simultaneously – memorizing lines, combining that with blocking, body language, intonation, and connecting it to other cast members – all in a fluid process. I’ve learned a lot solely from sitting back and observing, and from helping out whenever I am needed.


Many authors/playwrights/poets breathe an air of mysticism into their writing, in an attempt to take their audience on magical and extraordinary journeys. Uncle Vanya appeals to me because it confronts the real, homely, and everyday ups and downs of life. Whether it a lost love, a sense of listlessness, regret for the past, or sheer boredom with life, Chekhov conveys problems that normal people can encounter in their regular life. Along the way, the audience is still swept up on a journey, not one of magical and fantastical proportions, but rather one of personal and intimate experience. At some point while watching Vanya, I think an audience member will have a moment of consciousness when they stop to think “This reminds me of…” or “I remember when…” and this ability to connect to the performance in a distinctive, direct way will elevate their experience to a new level.

Although I admit I sometimes get bored during rehearsal, when I witness the play unfold, I find myself caught up in these sort of moments, and I feel engaged and intrinsically tied to Uncle Vanya and the entire cast.



When you are nameless and formless, how do you move through the space? When you are speechless and silent, how can you make your presence known?

The ghost list illuminates the empty space. The observer watches, and turns out the light.

At first it’s all chaos and cacophony, bodies moving through a space vibrated by sounds of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, hope and envy and wishes and regret. And you move through this space, feeling nothing, feeling everything. Sometimes you reach out and make contact. You check in, though this is more a courtesy than a necessity. We all know what we’re doing. Going through perfected motions. Soon, there becomes nothing left for you to say. And so you watch. And you walk. You touch, absorbing the essence into your body, taking in every object, connecting with all flesh. Embodiment of mood. A silent observer. Attentive and alert. Audience, presence onstage.

The transition is an ordered chaos, and you watch and walk.

It changes, and you can feel yourself changing with it. Speechless, nameless and formless you take in your surroundings, you become the atmosphere. Silent as you are, the sorrow is overwhelming; it becomes too much to bear. Pouring out onto the stage, filling the space with its weight, the heaviness sinking into you. You find yourself moved to release, rising with the intonations bursting forth. And the sorrow comes, flowing in speechless sound, meaningful yet meaningless. And the sound takes a form, extending out, twisting and writhing in the space, in the small space, deep in the shadows. You can hear it. If you look closely enough, you can see it. It underscores the pain. It ceases, without notice. At the pauses, the space rings with silence.

The transition is an ordered chaos, and you watch and walk.

You know better than to be deceived by laughter and smiles. Embodiment of mood, you know what is yet to come. You can feel it shifting in the atmosphere, shifting in your formlessness, giving rise to a new shape. This is sorrow, and yet it is not the same. This is guilt and confusion and shame. This rises deep within you, vibrating upwards until it is breathed out, a doleful sigh.

But ceaseless sorrow would cause the form to break, and so you retreat into the darkness.

In the space, the chaos runs wild.

The transition reclaims the order, and you return, and watch, and walk.

In the background, as always, watching. The atmosphere has changed, embodiment of mood expectant, waiting. Three simple rings of an ominous bell, each taking something away, removal of that which will never return. Death. A small one occurs with each turn.

You hear the reflection of that outpouring of emotion, the sorrow that caused you to flow and move. It fills the space, underscoring the sorrow, rising and falling and fading away.

Forms cease, and silence reigns.

The ghost list illuminates the empty space. The observer watches, and turns out the light.

– Jaya Z.

Letters to Vera Petrovna

I remember the sun was just right that day. The wide pink ribbon hanging off my tiny hat refused to stay out of my eyes. I squint to see the fluffy clouds dotted across the sky. My hand feels so small clutching yours as you lead us through the garden. Surreal. My memories of you belong to a different world where everything is brighter. Even the estate looks different somehow-welcoming. In the garden not a single blade of grass is out of place. Of course not. The garden’s upkeep was nothing less than perfect under your care. Not a tree untrimmed or a weed in sight. Beside the path something catches your eye. The rose bushes glistening with dew. You lean in to inhale the pink and red blossoms.

“What do you say we gather a few roses for Nanny?” you whispered. I clap my hands in agreement. After we delivered the roses to Nanny, Papa joined us for a walk through the forest.

My memories of you are few but I remember how different life was then. Breakfast at 8, lunch before 1, dinner at a reasonable hour. Tea, meals, housework and the affairs of everyday life ran like a clockwork fairytale. Uncle Vanya was young then and still hopeful. Papa even smiled- no sign of rheumatism or gout. Everyone was happy. Life on the estate seems like an entirely different world now. The farmwork is barely turning a profit and Papa eats and sleeps whenever he pleases. If you were here they’d all be ashamed of themselves. Nanny tells me how your love and strength were the foundation of the entire estate.

Papa’s new wife has come to stay with us. Everyone says how beautiful she is but she’s not beautiful like you. She does nothing all day. Besides her talents for the piano I’d say her spirit is quite unremarkable.


I have a confession to make. I despise uncle vanya. Today he launched into another one of his rants about how old he is, how he hates the professor and blah blah blah. He sulks around the estate all day sniveling in that ridiculous bathrobe. Meanwhile I’m left to cut the hay, keep the accounts, sell the crops, do the housework and care for the estate by myself. I’m beyond exhausted. Uncle Vanya’s also drinking more and more frequently. It’s despicable. Soon he’ll be no better than the drunks in the taverns. What’s happened to him? Perhaps his behavior is not entirely unwarranted. Vanya’s clearly terribly depressed and I’m guessing the way Yelena treats him doesn’t help either. Still, the questions he struggles with, isn’t that something we all have to deal with at one point or another? The realization that our youth is over. The skepticism that our life and work has had any real purpose. The fundamental question of the meaning of our lives. . Sometimes I wonder if the reason I keep myself so busy with work is to avoid thinking about these things myself.

Today Uncle Vanya said something funny. He said I looked just like my mother. He must be hallucinating. Everyone knows how beautiful you were and that I was unfortunate enough to get Papa’s looks. It seemed like Uncle Vanya wanted to say something more though. He kept stuttering “if only she knew” but when I pressed him about it he wouldn’t explain. I bet I can finish his thoughts: ‘If only you knew how embarrassing the estate had become and how unhappy we all are’. If only you were still here to care for us…

Today I found out even Yelena is unhappy- just as I suspected. Stepmother is a strange word to me. You would have despised her and her laziness but I must admit I’m terribly fond of Yelena. I think she feels trapped by father and this estate. I sympathize with her. She said that the way she loved father at the time wasn’t “real love”. I can’t help wonder if that’s how I feel about the doctor. Still, even if it’s not “real love” the thought of him completely consumes me. Telling Yelena how I felt was like being able to breathe again. I really think that in a few months from now we’re going to be best friends. I think you’d be happy that I found a best friend.


Papa almost tried to sell your estate. It sounds like a nightmare when I say it now. I refuse to let it happen while I’m still alive. When I close my eyes I still see Vanya’s eyes looking back at me as I pry the morphine out of his hands. I think I understand him now. Of course he’s tired but its more than that. My new best friend is leaving forever because of Vanya’s silliness and I don’t blame her for it. I’ll miss Yelena but I really hope she finds happiness in Kharkov. As soon as Yelena walked out the door the spell was broken. Vanya and I are getting back to work. You would laugh if you saw how utterly behind we are on the accounts.

The doctor left too. It’s better this way I suppose. Still, I’ll miss being enchanted by his visits. I wonder if he knows that he is the most fascinating man I ever met and that I could never ever forget him- even if I tried.

For some reason I feel it’s my fault that everything has come to shambles. I wanted everything in your estate to stay perfect. How did you do it? Tiredness has overwhelmed my entire body but I continue to fight it. I feel so completely exhausted but that’s how I know God will have mercy. As I sit down to finish the accounts I think of you and find my strength. The thought of seeing you again and finally finding God’s rest in the end gives me comfort.

Your faithful daughter,





EmerSonya the Romantic and Self-Reliance

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

I make a point not to become dependent on things. Not to rely on other people, nor on money or material goods, or the seasons. The only person I can rely on is myself. And Nannechka.

For six years life had been dependable, constant, predictable, and comfortable. Uncle and I worked and saved; Nannechka knitted, Babushka read her pamphlets. The doctor came to visit. We had tea at eight every morning. In spite of myself I began to depend on our comfortable routine, with all its occasional discomforts of hunger and want and hard work.

Then Papa came to live with us. Papa and his new wife.

They pulled up our lain tracks, they grew over our beaten paths, descended like hot clouds in an Indian summer sky to hold in their heavy, hot winds of change. And though it was nice at first to have Papa around, our relationship has always been formal and didactic. And this new woman. She could have been a sister to me. A beautiful, strange, queen of a sister. I was terrified and scornful all at once. I remember seeing her at the wedding, and how she stuck out in that crowd—a silver ruble among a handful of dull copper kopecks. Their winds rocked the foundations of our lives, but my self-reliance has held. And now I can find strength and validation in my own work. I can hurry and busy myself with a calm inside. I will gather the crumbling walls of the estate close about me, hold them in place, and pull back the creeping ivy sown by Papa and Yelena which slowly take hold.


 The wind that blows our doctor in, Yelena’s perfume, the smell of candles burning into the restless night—these form a miasma that we’ve all breathed for too long now. The estate is slipping through my fingers as is my tolerance and my energy.   I know I must do my best to maintain order but my patience is thinning. I actually confronted Papa tonight–I haven’t done that since before the wedding. And Uncle. I don’t know what to do with him, I feel as if he’s fading, fraying, pulling away from me like paint peeling from the walls. Astrov has him marinating in vodka and regret when the best thing for him is to fight, like me, to be strong. Astrov gets us all drunk. I certainly have no control over myself when he walks in a room, I watch my defenses and ambitions, my strengths and strongholds fold like garments around my ankles. He spoke to me tonight, really spoke, and I saw him completely and I think, I think, he may have seen me too. Even if just for a minute, a moment, a fleeting glimpse, but he saw. Maybe he saw. And then he was gone. And left me humming with a residue of words, all beauty, beauty, beauty. How did I stay standing? How did I not weep? How did I let go of his hand? Seems there may be strength left yet. And beauty, beauty swept in, but she wasn’t strong at all but needed me just as I needed her, and that night I surrendered to friendship, tears and laughter. My first surrender.


My next surrenders were my chores, my duties–those which had held me up all these years, the little tasks which formed the vertebra of my backbone were gently forgotten. My hurry is slowed to a shuffle, an ooze, while my inside is thrumming and churning. In six years he has never come this often. And his words and his face are beating at the insides of my skin, shouting beauty, beauty, and I wonder how I’ve never heard them before and the drumming gets quicker and nearly unbearable as my body grows listless. He’s here every day. He can’t hear my drumming. He can’t see past the creeping kudzu of beauty to the stone walls beneath, the crumbling stone walls no longer strong. And I’m crumbling. My self-reliance has laughed in my face, and dependence has flown away to roost in the words, the hands of the doctor. The heavy air is heaviest yet, pregnant with storm, ready to ruin me. And yet I don’t seek shelter, I surrender my happiness, as all of us have, to beauty. She asks him. I know what he says. The clouds burst open with my heart and empty, everything I’d grown to rely on flies away. Papa wants to sell the estate, my estate, to wrest the crumbling walls from my grip. I look into Uncle Vanya’s face and barely recognize him—my ally, my comrade. The dependable, inaccessible doctor never to return, never to return my love. My internal drum is suddenly silenced. Gunshots ring out in the still noise. I cling to my only refuge, still the only thing I can rely on—my Nannechka.


When I was little and couldn’t be consoled, I would hold my doll tight and tell her it was going to be alright. The only thing to stop my tears was to soothe my dolly’s imagined heartaches, to let her need me, to know I was needed. Uncle Vanya has given back the morphine. It’s still quiet. Goodbyes are muted and harness bells hushed. Yelena won’t let go of her pencil as we hug goodbye, as the beauty that I’ve loved and hated lets me alone at last. And reaching through the dark I find my work, and allow myself to be needed, my greatest comfort. My hurry will return but for now it’s a quiet emptiness, like the feeling after you’ve been crying for hours, and suddenly grow still, and weary. Yelena said I must learn to trust. But only myself, and the promise of rest.

—Faye G.

Astrov by Nick Prey

1.  Don’t have much time.  Just been called to the factory.  The worst calls always come from the factory.  Frustrating day.  The Professor refused my help.  Idiot.  Lives under the misconception that his doctorate in fine art makes him a medical expert as well.  I would have been interested to see him Malitskoe.  Probably would have told the dying peasants they all just had rheumatism.  I don’t mind not seeing him.  Just wish I hadn’t rode so far for a wasted trip.  Poor Vanya, I don’t know how the man puts up with it.  And Sonya, poor thing.  His wife, too.  Far too good looking for a man like him.  Well.  If I ride hard, and if the accident isn’t too horrendous, I might be home in time to check up on my new grove.  The young trees are growing nicely.  They should be quite beautiful.

2.  My head.  Is throbbing.  My god, why did I drink so much again?  Ugh.  What a strange night.  That was the LAST time I visit that old windbag of a professor.  Rheumatism?  Please.  And Vanya has become increasingly mopey.  He’s simply not as much fun to drink with anymore.  Spends all his time pining over Yelena Andreyevna.  Which is understandable, I suppose.  She is…unusual.  One of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.  I must confess, I find myself increasingly looking for excuses to encounter her. Strange, especially considering her general state of idleness, which I on principle despise.  If only she…but no, she is who and what she is.  And poor Sonya, she…well, she is a good girl.  She deserves better than this.  I cannot stand that house.  It represents absolutely everything I hate in this world.  Yes, I will not be returning, at least not for a while.  Akh, what am I doing?  I’m late for an appointment.  I must be on my way.

3.  She wants to see my maps!  At last, after days and days of suffering through banal conversation with the rest of this nightmarish house, at last the two of us will be alone together!  I didn’t think I was capable of really wanting anything anymore, but I want this!  I want her.  She must know why I come here every day, she must.  Today is the day!  I must gather my maps and be off.  But first, some vodka for the nerves!

4.  I feel as if I have been forcibly woken from a deep sleep, and I am not sure if my dream was pleasant, or if it was a nightmare.  I have left the house.  I will not return for a long, long time.  Yelena is gone for good.  I will never see her again.  Vanya may forgive me, in time.  And Sonya…for her sake, I can’t come back for a while.  Yelena was right, she doesn’t deserve it.  Yelena…was she even real?  Did the past month even happen?  All I have to remember her is a backlog of patient visits and a barren patch of land that used to be a budding forest.  This is for the best.  Now, things can finally return to normal.  I can replant the trees.  Things will be back to normal.  I’m just not sure if that makes me happy or not.  I just feel…tired.

Like I’ve Fallen off the Earth

I. Out of all the places I could be right now, I would never choose this one, but I’m here and I can’t go back to the University, so I suppose I’m stuck for the moment. At any rate, that sycophant Ilyich and that simpering pathetic spineless Vanya along with the rest of those never-had-beens have been taking adequate care of the place. That doctor fellow seems crafty, there’s some vague glimmer of μῆτις back there behind those eyes. But I’m probably thinking too much of it. At least the views are wonderful. Now where is Yelena–where could she have gone?…

I just returned from a lovely walk. I hope Sonya dear doesn’t actually make me go to the forest; I don’t think my legs can take another minute of perambulation. There’s not much else to do around here, though, unfortunately.

II. My leg hurts like hell. What is this pain? Has to be rheumatism. I just feel like nobody cares at all for me, even though I’m the reason they have any livelihood in the first place–they have jobs because of me, they have a place to live because I haven’t decided to kick them out yet. And Yelena, my WIFE, doesn’t give a damn. I understand that I’m an old man, but I’m not that disgusting yet. I still have some life left in me, and my mind is as sharp as ever. So why doesn’t she care that I’m in agony? My leg is killing me, I am miserable, and no one understands any of it! At least Nanny cares; that’s something. Better than nothing, anyway. Damn that linden tea.

we cannot call a mortal being happy before he’s passed beyond life

III. It’s become clear to me that Yelena and I are too refined to continue living in the country like disgusting plebeians. Of course, I can’t tell them that, they simply wouldn’t understand that while their place may be in this pathetic uneducated country, mine is elsewhere. So I will propose my idea to them, and they will nod their heads and slur out something about “oh that sounds good let’s drink more vodka” and then that will be that. Sonya, the sweetheart, will agree to it because to be honest, she’s not pretty or bright, so what else does she have but to go along with my plans? If it were otherwise, she might have some leverage, but I’m not marrying her off anytime soon, so she is useful to me insofar as she is connected to the estate. Yes, yes, I love her. Don’t look at me like that. I love her, but I love myself. If any man says he loves another over himself, he is a liar. I’m simply not a liar. And she got herself into this mess anyway. Perhaps at least she’ll have had the foresight to save something up aside from what she was sending to me.


i can hardly write my hands are shaking but i have to get this down in case things go south and i need to recall////that halfwit vanya just lost his mind blame me for xy and z saying he could’ve been this and that and [REDACTED] my fault he turned himself into a wage slave and then out of nowhere as i’m trying to calm him down and REASON with him he pulls out a gun and fires@me–[REDACTED] he’s tried to KILL me completely unacceptable we cannot be around each other any longer but i won’t have him arrested that does me no good i’ll leave him to rot [REDACTED] spin his life out on my floor and he’ll thank me for the opportunity i swear it


i have had enough of this

IV. I apologize for the previous chicken scratch. Desperate times and all that, you know. And the day has arrived in which Yelena and I shall leave. Finally I shall be on my way and I can continue my writing and my research in peace and comfort, as is correct for a professor of my dignified status. Despite my loathing for the lot of them, I do think I shall miss them, in a strange sort of way. Entirely unwarranted, but I shall. They were curious company for the most part, at any rate. And I believe I will leave them with an excellent memory of me, despite the unfortunate incidents that have occurred during my time here. So here we go, wide smile, big voice, happy, happy, happy–one last time and then I’m free.

–His Excellency.


Confessions of Waffles

His Excellency has been here for a month now, along with his lovely young wife, Yelena Andreyevna. Well, she’s quite nice-looking, anyway. She hasn’t spoken to me yet. Anyways, their presence, though delightful, has thrown the entire household into an uproar: Vanya has completely forgotten about his duties and pouts all day long, Sonya is bending backwards to compensate, and Marina Timofeyevna is all in a tizzy over the hours that Alexander keeps. Maria Vasilyevna is, of course, extremely happy that her son-in-law has returned, and makes a point to talk to him every chance she gets. Me, I’ve settled into our new routines, although I do confess that I am a bit miffed that his Excellency has not spent very much time with me as of yet. He’s got important work to keep up with, I understand, but still. We used to have such wonderful conversations, him and Vanya and me. Not so now, though. Vanya’s completely changed, I’m sad to say. He complains, mostly about his Excellency, and continuously moans about his life being wasted. I don’t really see what he’s so angry about. I’ve lived with him and Sonya and Marina Timofeyevna for almost thirty years now, and we’ve all dealt with our problems and work together. We’ve accomplished something wonderful, the maintenance of this beautiful estate and I think that’s worth something.

Today, Alexander has asked me to accompany him, Yelena, and Sonya on a walk around the estate, to which I have gladly said yes. Perhaps, now that they have gotten settled, things can go back to the way they once were.


The doctor is here tonight and I must confess, I do not appreciate it. He is a good man, I think, and truly is dedicated to his work, especially when it comes to his precious forests, but he is such a crude man. He and Vanya got drunk and caused such a rucus. Everyone was up and everyone was angry tonight, and they did not help one bit. Myself, I was trying to rest, because I need to help Sonya cut hay tomorrow morning, but no such luck. Mikhail Lvovich roused me at around one in the morning (can you imagine?) and had the gall to ask me to play for him, as if I was some musician for hire. I play my violin when I feel like it, thank you very much, not on the whim of some drunkard. It was neither the time nor the place, what with his Excellency feeling unwell.

Astrov’s presence always causes Sonya to act differently. She loves him, I think, though I am hardly an expert in these sorts of things. It’s very sad, really. They complement each other, and it is certainly a good pairing, but the doctor…I don’t think he is the type of man who will settle down with a wife. And, quite frankly, I think Sonya would be unhappy, no matter what she thinks right now.


I’ve come down with a head cold, of all things. Just what I needed, right when I’ve begun to have to do more and more of the chores, along with Marina Timofeyevna. Sonya spends all of her time with Yelena Andreyevna these days, and Vanya…well, I hardly even see him out of his room anymore. When I do, it’s always with Yelena as well. That woman, she’s like a siren right out of the myths I used to read in school.

Things just haven’t been right since that storm back in July. Everyone’s restless, snapping at each other with no provocation, it’s almost more than I can bear sometimes. I just want everyone to be happy, really. Back when Sonnyechka’s mother was alive, we all got along so swimmingly. I love everyone in this house (well, except for maybe the doctor) and I hate to see them fighting like this. Marina Timofeyevna is the only one I talk to anymore, really, and even she’s shaken by the way things are going, which scares me. She’s always a steady person, no matter what’s going on.

His Excellency has asked us all to meet him to discuss something later today. He made it sound quite important. Maybe it will be something that can bring everyone back together. I can only hope, I suppose.


I can hardly believe that I am still alive. It was disgraceful, what Vanya did, completely insane. I love him like a brother, and I think I know where he’s coming from, but have I not lived through these things as well, felt the same disappointments that he has? I may not be as intelligent as he, but nevertheless, there are always times when I have wanted something else. I guess the shooting scared Yelena, because she has insisted that she and Alexander leave at once, which means that, for the moment, they are not selling the estate. I am grateful for this, because I do not want to leave this house. It is the only home I have now, and all of my friends and family are here. I’ve been talking with Marina Timofeyevna about things, and we both agree that, in the end, it’s for the best. His Excellency and his spouse are not meant for the life that we lead here, as sad as that is. So they will go to Kharkov and we will stay here, as things were before. We will settle back into the routines of old. We’ll eat at normal hours, sleep at night like decent people, and all of this antagonism will dissipate. It’s how things must be. I don’t pretend to be any good at philosophizing, but it does seem to me that we are meant to be here, doing the things that we do, and the presence of Alexander and Yelena changed that, and not for the better. We are creatures of habit, and I do not think that that is a bad thing, unless a change could benefit our way of life, and if the events of yesterday prove anything, it’s that such a change has not arrived yet. And I do so look forward to eating noodles again.

-Rory Eggleston

Autumn Roses, lovely and sad

Act I

It seems like I arrived at the estate years ago, but it’s impossible that more than 6 months have gone by. My husband goes through these phases where one day he is in chronic pain and the next he’s completely fine. I don’t know which one I prefer because at least when he’s in pain I can confine him to a certain area of the house. When he feels well he can find me and pester me. We did go for a nice, long walk today along with my step-daughter Sonya and the estate attendants. I love it when I can get out of that stuffy house. Vanya didn’t come with us though. He was sleep. I’ve known him for so long now and thank God I have him to talk to, but at times I want to strangle him. Why can’t he understand that we are only friends– nothing less and, absolutely, nothing more. It’s such a hassle keeping that balance with him. I feel lost here. Before the Professor and I were married, Sonya and I used to talk all the time and now she barely speaks to me. I didn’t mean to hurt her, it just kind of happened. Her lack of verbal communication, however, has not stopped me from noticing her infatuation with the country doctor, Astrov. She’s in love with him. She fawns over his every word. It’s very sweet to see, but it doesn’t seem like he has the same feelings. I’m too shy around him to talk about it, so, I’ve just been watching from afar. I don’t blame Sonya for being intrigued by his thoughts. They are quite bizarre. If I were Sonya I would marry him in a heartbeat, but maybe that’s why I’m in a heap of misery now. At least the estate keepers play music around the house.

Act II

It’s one of the Professor’s bad days. Now, I definitely know which one I prefer more. Being locked in a room with that man is pure torture. He complains the whole time about his pain and how no one listens to him or cares about him. I am his wife and for that reason I love him, but I merely tolerate his presence. It pains me to think that one day I’ll be old like him and aggravate everyone I come into contact with. Vanya, also, started drinking again and with vodka comes vulgarity. At least he’s as annoyed at the Professor at me. Astrov was here again. We had small talk, but something about him frightens me– in a good way– but I don’t know what it is. He’s been here five times this week and he’s always carrying these maps and carrying on about the forest. It’s quite endearing. I finally confronted Sonya about everything– the fact that she hasn’t talked to me in weeks, why I fell in “love” with her father, and I tried to give her some advice on living in this mundane world. It’s nice to know I have another friend in the house besides Vanya and a woman none the less. She told me how much she loves the doctor and it really got me thinking about my own feelings towards him. Why do I get shy? Why do I listen to him talk about forests? I don’t even like forests.


So… I am beyond bored. It isn’t even possible for someone to be this bored. Sonya, Vanya, and I just sit around the house and they tease me about being a witch and putting spells on people. Vanya says I have mermaid blood. Whatever that means! Sonya’s having a hard time with the fact that Astrov doesn’t notice her, so, I volunteered to talk to him. It probably wasn’t the smartest move on my part. I realize that I like him a lot and I’ve noticed when he comes here he is always looking at me or finding a way to talk to me. I made up some stupid excuse to talk to him about Sonya, but inside I know it was for me. I guess I was testing my limits, but it really went too far. The worst part is Vanya saw us. I’m mortified and embarrassed and I don’t know if Vanya is going to tell my husband. I’ve asked Astrov not to come back to the estate, but it doesn’t matter now because I have to leave. My husband had some absurd proposition to sale the estate and it sent the house into a complete frenzy. Vanya tried to kill the Professor. I tried to stop Vanya and thank God he missed and gave up. Poor Sonya… I feel horrible leaving her like this and knowing what I’ve done, but I have to leave.

Act IV

I left the estate today with my husband. I know I’ll lead a boring life. One without love or passion, without children or adventure. Knowing my fate, I approached Astrov one last time. I was nervous and heartbroken given our last encounter. I can’t help, but to think he’s the man I’m supposed to be with. I’ll never know, but I left with a little reminder– the pencil he uses to draw his maps. I’m happy to have left because I don’t want to be unfaithful to my husband. I’m, also, heartbroken. I know what love is supposed to be now and with the Professor I’ll never have that. I probably won’t see Sonya or Vanya again. I don’t know who I’ll have to talk to about the day. When people say I’m boring all the time I’m bound to believe it at some point, but when I enter a room the floor does turn, the atmosphere does shift, life does change for everyone, but me. Hopefully, there’s music wherever I end up next.