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Dr. Chekhov's Swan Song and Other Prescriptions

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Aleksey Burago
January 30, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director.

What is your show about?
It is a hilarious collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov and will be taking place at the historic Stanton Street Shul.

Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is a complex and inspiring city that has served as a canvas for many Russian writers--Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, and of course...Anton Chekhov. Later on I moved to Moscow where I completed my theater studies at the Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS) under the world famous theater director Peter Fomenko.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
This is both a difficult and simple question to answer. Simply put, I know that I cannot live without the theater. When I am away from it, I feel like a fish out of water. I see so many theater artists who are awkward in life--we mumble and are misunderstood, we trip and knock things over, we don't know how to look a stranger comfortably in the eyes---but put us on the stage, and suddenly we are expanded, graceful and articulate. For many of us, creating theater was never a choice, but a calling. It is both a joy and a responsibility.The theater is a place where all the art forms merge and there is the potential to create something that is transcendental. For me, it is also the most direct form of spiritual exchange between the creator and the audience. Things are happening right in front of your eyes, and they will never happen in the exact same way again. In our theater company, we want audiences to leave our show feeling inspired and uplifted. When we hear laughter, we know that we've given them joy. This, at least for me, is one of the biggest thrills.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
This marks my third collaboration with Olia Rogova, our gifted set designer who has a very unique vision for this show. We met in 2008 when I directed Lady with a Lapdog, Jokes and a Happy Ending for the HB Playwright's Foundation. It was also a play based on Chekhov's short stories. There, Olia had the wonderful idea of creating a pier as the set. It was challenging and exciting, and we cut down a tree to make the pier. Audiences were mesmerized by her work there. I also was inspired by her bold approach and could not wait to work together again. Later on, we teamed up for House of Curiosities, a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl, which opened this past summer at The Connelly Theater. Again, Olia came up with a design that incorporated Giotto's Seven Vices. The result was both unique and provocative. She is a graduate of the Moscow Art Theater School, and we share a similar culture and creative language. I feel very fortunate to have her on board with this show.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
Surprising. Although it's very sexy too.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Most certainly yes, but it is very hard and precise work. I believe that good theater has the power give light. Many idioms identify theater artists as surgeons who operate on souls. I believe that the theater has the potential to give relief, inspiration and hope to the audience. Therefore, it is part of our theater company's mission to produce works that illuminate and unify our community by raising consciousness to current realities from new perspectives.