“Three Sisters” is the latest production from the Belmont Theatre Department and is set to premiere Friday at 7:30 p.m..
“It’s about yearning for something that you feel is essential to your happiness, but that is difficult to obtain — but then also facing the possibility that you’re not going to obtain it,” said director of the show, Dr. James Al-Shamma.
Written in 1900 by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, the play tells the story of the Prozorov family and its desire to go home to Moscow.
Al-Shamma enjoyed directing this particular show, partially because of how he identifies with the character Irina and her journey of self-discovery.
“It took me a long time to finish my bachelor’s degree. I finally did a BFA in acting, and I finished when I was thirty. I felt like I wasn’t hungry enough to be an actor, so I took a bunch of office jobs that were terrible,” said Al-Shamma. “Finally, I landed up in Moscow in a job I love, but it took a lot of years and a lot of effort.”
Lauren Mincey portrays Irina in the upcoming production.
“She expects so much from life, and so she is left unsatisfied. She has to settle,” said Mincey. “I find myself a big dreamer like Irina. I often have to curb my own enthusiasm.”
Many of the cast members said they identify with the characters they portray, like Josh Kiev, who plays Vershinin — the romantic interest of the sister Masha.
“I play Vershinin, and he is around my actual age and likes to philosophize and is generally an easy going fella,” Kiev said. “When life challenges him, he finds a way to figure out a way to survive.”
Alex Drinnen was also surprised to find that he identified with his character Solyony.
“I’m probably not as annoying or as disruptive as him, but a lot of his thoughts, and thought processes and feelings towards others I think are very much my own.”
The actors’ attachment to their roles isn’t the only reason to visit the Troutt Theater Friday night. The show also boasts an elaborate and beautifully-designed set from chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance Paul Gatrell.
“I wanted a set that was kind of light and heavy at the same time — in the sense that this house in this provincial town is not substantial enough to give them a true home that satisfies them, to support the weight of their lives,” said Al-Shamma. “But on the other hand, it weighs them down — it’s like an anchor that keeps them from going to Moscow.”
“[Paul] came up with this beautiful set with a lot of glass, so he looked at provincial country homes at that time period — around 1901 — when the play is set. There are a lot of windows and a lot of set pieces fly in.”
Al-Shamma also mentioned a subtle, yet meaningful piece of Gatrell’s set. Rows of birch trees — which have a deep cultural significance in Russia — line the front of the stage.
“I think this works metaphorically in the sense that the sisters are trapped in the countryside,” said Al-Shamma. “They’re lost in the trees.”
Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. All shows count for convocation credit. Student admission is free.
Article and photos by Liz Gresser.