SOU stages adaptation of Chekov’s ‘Seagull’

Jackie Apodaca
Jackie Apodaca

Jackie Apodaca directs a new version by Libby Appel of Anton Chekov’s “Seagull,” now playing through Nov. 22 at the Center Square Theatre on the Southern Oregon University Campus. I saw an early run through and was impressed by the high quality of the rehearsal and the vibrant energy that propels the play. I met Apodaca at The Human Bean next to the library on the SOU Campus.

EH: What is the world of Chekov?

JA: Chekov is embracing the idea that everyone is the hero of their own tragic-comedy. The thing that is so fascinating about it is that it’s relatable, it’s about the type of issues that we all face. We think our lives are great dramatic love stories with triumphs and tragedies. We live our own lives that way. It’s the tiny things in our lives that take on such great importance, and that are ridiculous from the outside. You do get to very dramatic outbursts. It’s very naturalistic, in that we really do take those things so seriously.

If we could step outside of ourselves and watch, I think it would be pretty funny, and I think that’s what he’s capturing. All of our work dilemmas, our arguments with people – It’s all nothing really in the long run.

EH: How did you establish the lively pacing in the play?

JA: For the characters, everything is about the fight. They are coming in; something just happened to them; they are exiting another scene when they enter the stage. They come in in-the-midst of something, and they come in fighting for something. They are not just wandering in somewhere. In any form of entertainment where we watch people in action, we don’t want to watch them between things. We want to watch them on fire.

EH: The gestures seem so distinctive.

JA: The actors are all clear on what they want (what they’re fighting for), what’s in the way of what they want, and their given circumstances. They have a lot of information, and I think they’ve personalized it, so that there is no simple gesture.

EH: The surreal scenery?

JA: The scenery is like an art instillation. There is nothing naturalistic about it. This scenery, to me, evokes a sense of being born, growing up, growing old, and dying, that you are constantly on the road to your demise. It’s slow erosion in the human walk towards death.

Every single person in this play is hoping for something they can’t have, in a constant state of quest and searching, not reaching it and, instead, slowly losing ground on their walk toward death. Every character in the play is going through that arc of, “I’m important. I’m vital,” to “I’m not going to get my Disney fantasy dream ending.” Human foibles and pains are funny, sometimes, or sad.

EH: What is your process?

JA: I do a lot of talking to the actors separately. I’ll pull them aside as the character’s own best friend, who thinks they are right. We all believe we’re right.

I’m the primary acting teacher here, and I’ve had all these students in class. I actually was their Chekov teacher. They know my take on it already, and it’s easy for us in shorthand to communicate.

EH: Why are some people compelled to do theater?

JA: Because we are engaging in this look at humanity in a deep way. It’s like writing a poem. It’s a group poem.

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