Scott Kaiser is directing a new adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” by former Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Libby Appel. It opens Nov. 8 at Southern Oregon University’s Center Stage Theatre in Ashland. Kaiser is director of company development at OSF.
EH: How is acting in a Chekhov play different from acting in other plays?
SK: The two playwrights who are most revered by actors are Shakespeare and Chekhov. The reason is that they are so rewarding.
Everything you pour into Shakespeare, as an actor, as a director, as a designer, you get back. That is not something you can say about every playwright.
Most actors will tell you that they will travel anywhere and take any pay in order to work on Chekhov or Shakespeare. On a fundamental level they understand human nature so deeply that the roles are bottomless as you start to explore them.
The major difference between Shakespeare and Chekhov is that Shakespeare is much more forthcoming on the page about what the character is thinking or feeling. The characters often say exactly what is on their minds, and they often say exactly what they are pursuing in terms of objectives, what their interests are, and what their passions are. Shakespeare’s characters can be very articulate about what’s going on in their minds and their hearts. Chekhov’s characters, in contrast, sublimate all of that. Often Chekhov’s characters don’t talk about what they’re feeling or what they’re thinking; they may have a conversation about the trees outside while love is slipping away. Chekhov is subtle and fragile and understated. They are both rewarding in their own way.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Judith-Marie Bergan has delighted audiences with her stunning portrayals of legendary characters in her 11 seasons with the festival. We sat down to chat over coffee one afternoon. This is the second column of a two-part interview. The first was published on Sept. 26.
EH: How did you become an actress?
JMB: When I was in grade school, I had a lisp and I was very shy. My mom took me to a speech therapist who said, “You know, it’s really basically shyness with Judith; maybe you should enter her into a dramatics class.” I happened to be going to a school with a huge drama department. I just took to it. I was a drama student in high school. I majored in drama in college. I transferred to Goodman Theatre in Chicago for the rest of my degree. It’s just something I always wanted to do.
What I felt was whereas I was shy in life, on stage I could be anything. I still feel that. I’m not as shy as I was, but I still feel that I would rather go out and do a show than speak in public. There are a lot of things that you can do that you can’t do in real life. That’s kind of the appeal.
Ashland Contemporary Theatre leaps into fall with “All in the Timing,” three sparkling and savvy comedies by David Ives.
“Words, Words, Words” ponders the pseudo-science truism: that monkeys might write Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” if given enough time. “Mere Mortals” discovers our loftier selves on the fiftieth floor. “The Universal Language” leads us through labyrinths of language expressing its own moniker of love.
Directed by Evalyn Hansen and featuring a stellar cast, “All in the Timing” plays for two weekends: