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For the week of October 4 through 10, 2000

Chekhov’s 'The Seagull' lands at the Liberty Theatre

Company of Fools presents a Russian classic

"Casting is the first big enchilada. I prod the players to explore possibilities that they might not see on their own. My job is to ask good questions."

Rusty Wilson, director

Express Staff Writer

"I love those Russians," Rusty Wilson said. "I am a 19th century Russian literature fanatic. They were consumed by a search for God."

Company of Fool’s Artistic Director Wilson is directing the upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, where the pursuit of God and truth often collides with the quest for love.

"I am discovering one of the elements of Chekhov’s genius is in the tragic and comedic, all at the same time," Wilson said. "There is a truth in there about people."

A bittersweet romantic drama, the play will run from Oct. 12 to Oct. 29, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a Sunday matinee, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey.

The cast will also perform two shows on the mornings of Oct. 18 and 25 for three local high schools.

With The Seagull one can expect some subtle moments, some laughs and high drama; in other words, a lot of paradox.

Chekhov titled this, his first play, The Seagull, A Comedy in Four Acts-–those last words are not exactly ones that spring to mind when Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright is mentioned.

But fear not. There is humor in his diverse themes.

Chekhov, a medical doctor, a master of the short story and a seminal figure in modern theater, wrote some of the most classic of Russian dramas, and is considered by many scholars, after Shakespeare, arguably the most important playwright ever.

The Seagull was first produced in Moscow in 1898. The legendary acting teacher Konstantin Stanislavsky was the director of many of his plays at the famed Moscow Art Theatre.

At the heart of The Seagull is a willful self-absorbed actress, her insecure son, a younger lover, a brother and assorted other characters with close connections to them. It’s a family of sorts, both loving and dysfunctional.

Chekhov wrote his characters with realistic compassion and humor. He emphasizes character and mood; his plots describe the desolation of lonely people and the misunderstandings that come from self-absorption and desperation.

Wilson and members of the cast spoke to a Mountain Express reporter at the Liberty Theatre last Thursday morning.

"Casting is the first big enchilada," Wilson said. "I prod the players to explore possibilities that they might not see on their own. My job is to ask good questions."

Wilson held auditions in New York City and Providence, R.I., as well as in the valley.

"Rusty did such a good job casting," Peter Sampieri, one the actors, said.

Featured in the play are locals, as well as three out of towners.

Norway-born Celia Hansen, who plays Nina, lives in New York City, where she takes acting classes with Walt Witcover, director Wilson’s former acting teacher. She appears in commercials, the occasional "extra work" and in soap operas. This is her American stage debut. A professional dancer and model, she grew up in Aalesund, on Norway’s west coast.

The Seagull is "a beautiful play, with beautiful words," she said. "It has opened a door in my life; this has made my life more colorful, especially being in Sun Valley."

Both actors Vogler and Sampieri are associated with Trinity Repertory Conservatory in Providence.

A graduate of Trinity, Vogler also lives in New York and Sampieri is taking a sabbatical from his studies in Providence. They play the two male leads, Trigorin and Treplev.

The cast seems ideally suited to their roles. For instance, Vogler is a well known actor and a professional in his own right, while Sampieri is a struggling writer and actor, mirroring the characters they play.

"Chekhov is so deceptive," Vogler said, "when you first start [rehearsing] you think there’s nothing there. Then there’s a breakthrough moment—the possibilities are limitless. It’s a discovery."

Sampieri plays a lovesick youth going through a serious identity crisis who remains passionate despite his set backs.

"There exists in every moment [of the play] the possibility for every emotion," he said.

Portraying the actress Madame Arkadina, around whom much of the action revolves, is local actress and gallery owner Page Shelburne.

"Everybody will identify with one or more of the characters and their pursuits. There is something for everyone," she said.

Shelburne called the rehearsal process, which has been six days a week for over a month, as "an emotional roller coaster. It has been so filling. The cast is wonderful, we’ve been so happy with each other…

"The writing is brilliant," Shelburne added, "you never stop finding things--there are life messages."

Masha, one of the unrequited lovers, is played by local painter Amy Clifford. She is also making her stage debut after studying with Rusty Wilson for a year through the Company of Fools acting classes.

"In some ways," she said, "I like acting more than painting. I feel more alive. There’s no hiding behind a pretty picture."

Mike Craig, Michael Lanzarone, Chad Smith, Dan and Sheila Summers, Travis Schneider, a Wood River High School student, and Marilyn Teitge make up the remainder of the cast.

Original Company of Fools members John Glenn and Dennis Rexroad are, respectively, the production manager and the designer of the gorgeous tree filled modern set.

The Seagull will have a preview night on Thursday, Oct. 12, where the audience may pay what they wish, for the 8 p.m. show. The tickets are only available at the theater that night,

Friday, Oct. 13, is the formal opening night. Tickets are available at Chapter One in Ketchum and Read All About It in Hailey.


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