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.
EH: What are your tasks as Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s director of company development?
SK: I have in-house components and outreach components to my job. An enormous part of what I do is to scout, identify and recruit young talent in conservatories all over the country. I visit New York University, Juilliard, Yale, American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and others. Part of my job is recruiting the best actors to become part of our acting company.
Development is not only reaching out and finding new talent, but it’s also supporting the acting talent that we have, making sure that they have resources available to them, to help them with their bodies, their voice and dialects. I’m in charge of all of our coaching staff, such as our resident text director, fight director and Feldenkrais (movement) teacher. We provide all of that outside of rehearsal. We feel it’s important that actors keep working on their craft as artists. I am also part of the casting team that hammers out casting the repertory company for the following season each year.
EH: Why are some people so drawn to theater?
SK: It’s the live actor for me, being in a room with live human beings telling a story. It goes back to the cavemen sitting around the campfire. Film and television continue that tradition. They flicker like a campfire; much has been made about that. Still, that is the root of our primitive being. For me, the magic goes back hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years. I think it’s inextricable from who we are and from what we are as human beings on the planet.