Tag Archives: Astrov

When I hear the sound of wind rustling in young trees

Trembling Giants


From the “See the Bigger Picture” visualization series by Vienna-based graphic designer Michael Paukner, the interwoven lines connect over 20 of the world’s oldest trees and clonal colonies to their geographic origins. I thought maybe I’d see some of these lines connect back to Russia but alas no.

I, Astrov

In this response I’ve tried to create a sort of narrative stream of consciousness, paralleling the action of the play and broken up (roughly) based on my interpretation of the beat- or tactic-changes. Despite the shifts, I’ve tried to maintain a sense of continuous flow between the moments.



Where could she be? I can’t wait around here all day. Why did she and that dick even drag everyone out on a walk, on a day like this?

Am I too old for her, Nanny? Be honest with me. I don’t even know who I’ve become!

If this were ten years ago – even one or two years ago – I’d be fine, but I can’t change the world anymore. It’s already a shithole… and I’m no saint. But I will try; I’ll try for you and for what beauty remains in the world.

Beauty! She must be returning soon. Maybe Vanya knows what the hell is going on here.

There she is. God, what is this feeling? I feel so…silly.

And what’s up with Ivan? Hey man, snap out of it. You’re ridiculous – you know that? – and I love you for it.

But I’m worried about you. I don’t know much about this Yelena, but it doesn’t sound good from the looks of things. What’s the big deal?

Well, well, let me see what she has to offer. We’ll just get this situation under control, and be on our way…

Yes. No. Right, the tea…dinner… You want to talk about some political theory, art, maybe?

Can you believe these two? Like children or…magpies, fighting over something shiny. And Nanny, with her chicks again. Ah-ha! There’s a smile.

What? Who? Um…yes. I’ll be right there. Where…? Ah, the bag, the bag.

I was so close! This is horrible. One last chance to impress.

Is she being coy? Please, you really don’t think these forests are beautiful? Allow me…Allow her to educate you.

EXCUSE ME, WHO ASKED YOU, IVAAAN? Do you really want to get into this now? Why do you even care, you little shit? How do you put up with him?

Sorry. I need to go. Maybe we’ll finish this discussion next time, ok?



We need music in here! It’s a beautiful autumn evening! Something…magical…is in the air…There’s a…storm? You know that dame, who comes around here? I’d hit that. Nice. Choice. Bro. hey. What’s up, Vanya? Are you LOVESICK?

Sorry. I don’t mean to OFFEND you. I just think. That life. Is pretty near where it should be right now. I’m on top of the world. SO WHERE IS THE MUSIC?? Beautiful moments need MUSIC! You know what else we need? We Need DRANK.

Hello there, miss. Top of the evening to you. Beg your pardon while I take a trip to tidy up a bit… Expertly maneuvered, Astrov.

You don’t have to be a jerk, little miss. I’m not going to be a jerk; I’m just going to walk away. And I don’t want to deal with any of the other jerks who live around here, either, ok?

I don’t understand how anyone survives around here. You’re all crazy. And I don’t even know what to think your step-mother! What’s wrong with her? She’s fucking beautiful!

Look, don’t listen to me. The world can be great, it just isn’t for me. I work my ass off for the people and the trees, and what have I got to show for it? I can’t even love anyone anymore!

I mean, you’re good to me. I appreciate that. But… I can only fall for beauty… And don’t be fooled. I’d certainly fuck that up.

Save your love for someone who’s flourishing, vigorous: That’s what I’d tell your friend. I’m dead now. I’m dried up, hollow. What are you..? I…need to go. Thanks, and all.



She wants to see my maps! This is my chance. We’ve hardly shared two words since she’s been in the district.

Does she care about the taxonomy of the flora and fauna. No… just, stick to the basics. Has she noticed me coming around? She must have, but maybe she avoids Ivan’s room.

Her eyes are pretty distracting. How many birds were there again? This must sound ridiculous. Ah, but she’s laughing! At me or with me? Dammit where’s the other monastery?? Something about cattle…

Focus, Astrov. Jesus there’s nothing in this one. Get it over with.

Ugh the third map. It’s horrible, isn’t it? To think, we had these beautiful things in our grasp, and we just let them…rot away. We’re better than this, aren’t we? Humans, us?

God she doesn’t care one bit. It’s over. She’s right, this is all silly.

Oh? Is she flirting with me? Powerful language. Hmm…Sonya. Do I…want to be Sonya’s… father, you ask? Do I want to be Sonya’s… something else. No. Oh no. No not that.

Is this what you wanted to tell me? I should maybe lea– Why would you do this? Are you messing with me?

Wait you– you are. You’re toying with me. Well, well, well. I can play this game, too.

You’re really into the game, aren’t you? Ok, come on, I know what you’re feeling. I saw it in your eyes. I felt it too. Just give in to it! I’ll give in. Here.

What’s stopping you? Look at you. Look at us!

Electricity. Just listen to it.

We could have this forever.

Oh shit. Where’d he come from? WHY IS HE HERE? This is bad. It’s ruined. It’s all ruined. Don’t make it worse.



How could he even try to…? I don’t believe it. I have to stop this, and I don’t even have time.

Where is that little smelly rat? Vanya, I know you’re here!

Ok, stop being a child. This is very serious! I’ve got bigger things to worry about, you little shit. Why do you insist on making all of our lives more difficult?

Can you even hear yourself? Think about someone else for a change, you creep. Oh, you don’t even want to get me started on Yelena. But this isn’t about that, so just shut up for a minute!

You know, there’s nothing wrong with you. Probably. Life’s a bitch –everyone feels this way– And you have to take it.

And you definitely can’t just hide from it, or drown it, or whatever you think you’re doing. You have to face it. You have to ACCEPT that we have screwed up beyond all repair. WE have, you and I both.

Maybe if we’re being completely honest, we’re not entirely to blame. Bad luck. Bad cards. “Better luck next time, sucker!” as we say…

Okay, now, look: I might have a chance left with Yelena; I need to get out of here. I mean, go ahead and kill yourself if you want! But don’t drag me down with you.

Sonya! Please please pleeeease help! I don’t know what else to do. He’ll listen to you.

She’s so loving, so good. And he’s fine. I understand, Vanya. I feel you.

Well…I better get ready to go. I don’t even know what I would say.

There she is. Look at Vanya, being led away like a steer. No, I will not be that. I will not have that. This is my life I’m fighting for.

What is she thinking? What is she feeling? Why is she still here? Is she trembling?

She is. She’s scared. Scared of leaving? Yes! Why won’t you stay? Just stay? What could I possibly do to make you understand that it’s right for you to stay? Do I need to tell jokes? Do tricks?

She’s smiling. I’m close. This Is It.

Excuse me? Handshake. No no no. What’s wrong with you???

You know what, fine. You can go if you want to. I don’t need you. Maybe you had me…for a little while… but I’m stronger than this. And I’m stronger than you. Because I’m not going around causing trouble, making people fall in love with me. Go if you want to; you haven’t beaten me.

Ok now she’s close. Why did she get so close. It’s not…uncomfortable. It’s just a little bit too…exciting. And why did she take my pencil? Why do I care?? Relax, Astrov. She hasn’t beaten you yet. You take your prize, and then you go.

Oh my god. I can’t leave this. Where does my life go from here?

Did she feel it too? No? Why isn’t she leaving? She felt it too.

People are coming, people are coming. I can’t leave her, I’ll die. What if it happened for us? It’s too good. I couldn’t maintain it. But I need it. They’re here…

I’ll never be the same.

I didn’t deserve it. I couldn’t take it. Why didn’t you try harder, Vanya??

They’re gone. I have to move on. At least I still have my Nanny. She’ll comfort me.

How will I ever leave this behind? No, I must. I should get out of here. Get the formalities out of the way and here I go.

No, they deserve more. All the love they gave me, where would I be without my two loves?

Vanya… what could I ever say to him? I hope he can forgive me. Things could be worse, I guess. We’re probably pretty lucky here, when you think about it.

Ok, let’s numb the pain and get this operation over with. One more look at things: This is the end and this is the beginning. I can’t say goodbye any more, I have to leave, Nanny. I have to just do it. I’ll miss-.


Yeesh, it looks ….


I don’t know if any of you have been in a Claire’s boutique or a Justice store geared to the Tween girl demographic but let me tell you that these places are filled with mustache tchotchkes and mustache branded jewelry, t-shirts, socks, duck tape(!), pencils and pencil holders … you get the picture. I’m not sure when, how or why this trend started but ever since we’ve been working on Vanya I’ve been reminded of Astrov’s “creep” assessment of his own persona, which includes “this huge mustache.” Maybe it’s the Steampunk aesthetic winding its way down the age ladder. I’ve not seen mustaches on the One Direction singers so it doesn’t seem to be driven by boy band love. And I think it’s too much to hope some pioneering marketer has embarked on a campaign to encourage young women to embrace a broader gender performance spectrum. Honestly I’m just stumped.

And just as I’d been pondering this and thinking about our own sharing of facial hair stories during rehearsal breaks, I found an examination of this “mustache moment”  in a post on one of my favorite contemporary art blogs: Hyperallergic. In their piece they discuss the work of photographer Greg Anderson whose recent portraiture looks like this:

The epitome of all this, surely, is captured in the photography of Greg Anderson, which has been making the rounds on the internet recently. Anderson, who’s based in Las Vegas, traveled to New Orleans to photograph the 2013 Beard and Mustache Championships after missing the 2012 version in his hometown. “There were a few eccentric types,” he noted in an email with Hyperallergic — although he copied and pasted responses from another interview he had done — “but largely these are regular, down to earth guys who enjoy being a part of the bearding community and gathering once a year to see their friends and have a good time. It seems to be more about the camaraderie than the competition.”

More camaraderie than competition. Sounds just like all of you who are doing your best to grow those beards and mustaches for the show. So in your honor, and in honor of the grand and glorious beard/stache combo of our director, here is some more inspiration.


I don’t eat meat. That makes me strange.

Happy World Vegetarian Day!! In observation, NPR had a story today about the 115-year-old Zurich restaurant Hiltl, “the world’s oldest continually operating vegetarian restaurant,” and its founders, early customers, and latest offerings.

"This gang founded Zurich's Vegetarians' Home and Teetotaller Cafe in 1898. Ambrosius Hiltl bought the joint and changed the name in 1903."

“This gang founded Zurich’s Vegetarians’ Home and Teetotaller Cafe in 1898. Ambrosius Hiltl bought the joint and changed the name in 1903.” NPR.

The details about its early days struck me for how they touch on both Astrov (in terms of the atypical choice to go meatless at that time) and the Professor (in terms of vegetarianism being offered as a medical treatment for various ailments like rheumatism).

“The first several years, people entered Hiltl through the backdoor,” says Peter Vauthier, the head of Hiltl guest relations.

The Swiss, you see, have long been a pretty meat-loving bunch. “If you didn’t eat meat, it meant you had no money,” he says. Vegetarianism, in other words, was kind of a badge of shame.

But that didn’t deter Ambrosius Hiltl. Back in the 19th century, the Bavarian cobbler was working in Zurich when he adopted a vegetarian diet to alleviate joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis. The advice came from a doctor who followed the school of thought that a diet of raw vegetables, fruit and nuts could heal most ailments. That was an idea popularized by Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician and nutritional theorist best known for inventing muesli.

Lucky for Hiltl, Zurich had an option for budding vegetarians like him: the Vegetarians’ Home and Teetotaller Café, which had opened its doors in 1898. Not exactly the kind of name that draws crowds, but Hiltl nonetheless became a frequent diner. Eventually, he decided to buy the joint. Hence, Hiltl — a Zurich institution — was born.

The original menu may have been vegetarian, but it wasn’t especially healthful. Dishes were essentially regular recipes served without meat. Potatoes, rice and flour-based foods featured heavily, […]

The original vegetarian restaurant had been in business for five years before Hiltl took over in 1903, continuing to serve a motley — and largely female — clientele. The meatless menu attracted artists and writers, as well as those with ailing health and the religiously observant.

100+ years later, the restaurant has become one of Switzerland’s largest restaurants seating over 500 on three floors with a bar, nightclub, and cooking classes for patrons. Of course its popularity has meant a return to some of those unhealthful offerings before Hiltl took over in 1903:

Many of [today’s] Hiltl customers aren’t vegetarian. They just like the concept of an international buffet with fresh, quality food served in a trendy environment, which also explains why some of Hiltl’s unhealthiest fare is the most popular. One top seller: meatless Zürich Geschnetzeltes with Rösti, a typical Swiss dish usually made with small pieces of veal and mushrooms in a cream sauce, served with crispy potatoes.

The story doesn’t give the calorie count for the meatless version, but the average for the traditional recipe averages about 500 total calories with 300 of those coming from fat. But at least it continues to be one of the few fully Kosher, high-end restaurants in the city. Field trip anyone?

"Today, Hiltl features more than 100 items on its vast buffet."

“Today, Hiltl features more than 100 items on its vast buffet.”

A brief theory of art, and an analogy to Scientology

Friend-Zoned by Answers and Dating Uncertainty

In these past few weeks, I’ve gone from being scared about the show to being excited about it. In a horribly cruel twist, I think I’ve also come to realize that it’s better to be scared about the show. Oops. During table work I answered some of the greatest questions I had about Astrov, perhaps a function of time and also a function of the proper resources (Where does the profession of Dramaturgy go after Jules?). This was great, as I had been feeling blocked, like I could not petretrate this character or the play’s complexities. But I also realized, for any great search-journey (like that of understanding a character), though we receive a cathartic joy from reaching conclusions, we would be foolish to think our journey complete at the first rest-stop. The real value lies only in pressing forward to the brink of the un-answerable. Thereby arises an interesting conundrum: Though we embark on this search in order to reach cathartic conclusions, we gain the most value by depriving ourselves of cathartic comfort and pushing forward to greater uncertainty. We are not allowed to stop, and must instead empty out a place for new answers, and take on new anxiety to fill them. To recontextualize slightly: For the actor to become comfortable with what he is creating on stage is most often to simultaneously kill it, his drive to understand the character analogous to that character’s drive to achieve his own goals, his uneasiness in the skin of the character analogous to that character’s unstable relationships through conflict, and his inevitable nightly transformational arc. So while I crave to solve technical issues of our production, to answer questions and sort-out confusions about Astrov, and to feel at all adept to live within this complex, ingenius, timeless masterpiece, I will likewise seek to balance these goals with others: to never fool myself into thinking I DO understand it; to never relax into comfortable patterns or tropes that may ossify my work; to continue to question and push boundaries. I’ll remain skeptical of conclusions, of easy-fixes, perhaps even of stable blocking-patterns.

Dictionary Definitions and Abstract Substance

In working with Kali, valuable as I found the work, the objective philosopher in me had to temper my appreciation of it with some (mostly harmless) skepticism. Theatre has always impressed and frustrated me by its complete embrace of subjectivity. You can’t teach theatre out of a book, and you can hardly learn it in a classroom. As an example: I once asked a dear theatre professor what they could recommend I do to best hone and improve my art. The only advice they offered was to march out into the world and have experiences (I later learned that it was equally important to “use” those experiences – all vagueness intended here – lest they sit in our attic collecting dust, but this begins to border on the tangential…). I can admit this knowledge has not stopped me from trying to understand theatre with the objective side of my brain, when appropriate, and as much as Kali’s work proved original and inspiring to me, I couldn’t help but seek the connections and similarities to other “methods” to which I’ve been exposed. Where there are great similarities, I sometimes long (with no hope whatsoever) that people would unify the terms we use to refer to certain common themes or phenomenon in the theater. And, of course, I just as soon realize that a standardization of terms would probably ossify these terms and render them meaningless beyond a simple, trite dictionary definition. In my limited understanding of Scientology, this is how L Ron Hubbard got away with passing off simple, old-hat philosophical and psychological ideas as religion- by renaming important terms and disassociating common concepts (psychoanalysis, the soul, trauma, repression…) with their baggage and injecting them with new meaning. I realized that our work with Kali- the games and techniques and terminology we learned with her- it all has meaning because we have collectively undergone a unique experienced to understand these concepts. I doubt we’d be able to take in an outsider and share with them what we learned from Kali in any meaningful way. We could tell them to stop in the middle of a line and experience what that character is experiencing, and we could tell them we sometimes call that a “Roller Coaster”, but they weren’t there when Jamie and Faye were rolling around on the floor. We could describe the process through which we connected our action to our heads, first, and then moved it down into our upper and then whole bodies; we could even describe these body locations’ connection to breath, noting similarities to some of Ellen Hemphill’s teachings, but in the end, even if we’ve arrived at similar concepts through different methods, our results here will look very different from something that Ellen would have created. We’re not interested in definitions or descriptions, anyways. The theatre concerns itself with life, with the movement of humanity through time and space. All that ultimately matters (to any given performance, at least) is our humanly subjective understanding of our action. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to let go of my left-brain, but I’ll at least employ it to keep things in perspective.

The Language of the Body: Now Accessible through Rosetta Stone

Some of the growth I am most grateful for experiencing this past summer has been in how I experience the world. I’ve come to believe that there are a number of ways in which we can experience the world, and a number of ways in which we can transmit experiences to others. Much of formal schooling concerns itself with the clearest and most objective form of communication, writing. But imagine what kinds of different ideas can be transmitted through images alone. Through sketching the world (Berlin, specifically) I came to know it in an entirely new way. And I tried to find other methods of receiving the world. We can make logical sense of things, and we can try to note the distinct experience that is emotional connection to a moment in time, for example. If I call these “languages” in which we can experience the world or communicate to others, then focusing so stringently on movement has made me identify the different realms of communication we employ on stage (which is hopefully all of them, though I can’t claim I’ve found an exhaustive list). My background (which I believe to often be the case with amateurs) has made me most confident in my verbal communication and aural understanding, perhaps due in part to bodily insecurities and the literary-theater’s obsession with “the reading.” But there is certainly another realm of communication and experience surrounding static image, and perhaps yet another for movement through space(and furthermore I would note a difference between experiencing the world through moving in it, and experiencing the world through watching the movements of others). I question if our emotional reception to experiences add a separate (perhaps not mutually exclusive) realm, as well. Even how we communicate with our faces might be relevantly distinguishable from how we communicate with our bodies. What I mean to conclude is simply that each of these variables can be honed and manipulated on stage to create a variety of effects, and it’s been a pleasures exploring a realm that for me had been relatively ignored in my performing career.

With the new vocabulary I’ve/we’ve created, I can at least analyze my own or others’ performances or styles in new interesting ways. I see in myself a comfort in some realms and weakness in others, and I see how where a character devotes their energy (do they express themselves vocally, or corporeally, or facially? How much so in each region?) can become yet another variable that can defines them. I should clarify: I only mean to pick these categories apart for intellectual purposes; obviously every character will utilize every realm of expression, and it will mostly be difficult to separate one from another (We very purposefully had trouble separating vocal work from our movement work). If anything, I’ve only learned more how great things happen when these languages are translated into one another:

In the extra movement workshop with Kali that I attended, I realized that I was taking one realm of understanding/expression (say an image), and translating that into another (a specific type of movement), and then maybe translating that into something new again (a noise that I probably wouldn’t have associated with the original image at all). Combining these different elements created something original and special. Good art. Or consider this phenomenon: When we see a repeated human movement paired with some non-linguistic vocalization, for example, we are able to grant it a name that has meaning for us. We translate these methods of experiencing and understanding the world in trying to make sense of them, based on the methods we are more comfortable with (which for most of us is language- hence these written blog posts- But note that I have not even attempted to describe to you in language the specific movement I wrote about at the beginning of this paragraph. It wouldn’t suffice.). To conclude: I’ve become very excited about exploring the corporeal method of experiencing and communicating. Thanks for the guidance, Kali!

–Mike Myers

Alleviate Astrov’s workload. Get your FREE flu shot!

I’ll let the enclosed poster’s slam on my doctoral alma mater go without fuss in order to take advantage of its information and remind you of the need to stay healthy not only for your work on Vanya but for a better semester overall. There are four more opportunities this month to get a free flu shot. Remember the “flu season” pretty much = entire school year. There are other wellness resources on campus and basic steps you can take that tend to the whole you: keeping hydrated, getting good sleep, eating well, and emotional self-care. Just chalk this post up to the Marina in me. “You’re such a special … special cast.”


Astrov would be proud

From today’s Boston Globe story “New England Sees a Return of forests and wildlife

"Across New England, areas like the Swift River Valley (above, left, in the 1880s and in 2010) in Petersham have seen their forests, once cut down and cleared for farmland, replenished in the 21st century."

“Across New England, areas like the Swift River Valley (above, left, in the 1880s and in 2010) in Petersham have seen their forests, once cut down and cleared for farmland, replenished in the 21st century.”

“New England is undoing many excesses of the industrial age,’’ he said in an interview. “Stagnant waters aren’t just stirring — they are finally starting to flow fast. Fish are swimming freely to their ancient spawning places. Great birds are again bold in the sky.’’

Wetlands throb and slither with rejuvenated life. Rivers are quickening even in notoriously compromised corners of the region — the herring run on the Acushnet River in southeastern Massachusetts, for example, has rocketed from a few hundred fish to many thousands.

And bald eagles are soaring in skies that have not borne eagles for decades.

“Until 10 years ago, there were zero bald eagles — none — nesting in Vermont,’’ said John Buck, migratory bird project leader for the Vermont Wildlife Department. “Now there are 14 nesting pairs, hatching about 24 chicks. That sounds small, but it’s a big jump.’’

Chalk it up to taller trees, cleaner water, and plenty of prey, according to biologists.