From students in THPERF 200: Theatre in Context
COMEDY AND THE SEAGULL
Bailey Marie Sandra Girard, Abigail Hughes, Alexandra Marie Kale, Binoy Vajid Pattharwala, Wendy Qing
The University of Waterloo’s production of the Seagull has chosen to take a comedic approach to Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Although the choice to present a comedic rendition of the play is infrequent, the decision to emphasize the absurd elements of the play to create comedy is common. In the University of Waterloo’s production, as well as other productions, the choice of props, costumes, lighting, setting, makeup, and artistic direction, to name a few, are selected in such a manner as to emphasize the absurd nature of the play. In the presentation above, you will be able to see a selection of 5 different productions of The Seagull that heavily invested in absurdist comedy. Consider how these productions relate to and differ from the one being performed at the University of Waterloo.
RELATIONSHIPS AND LOVE IN THE SEAGULL
Hannah Daudlin, Danielle Lim, Samantha Mirandola
For the presentation of our thesis and information, we decided to film a video with our take on having a YouTube/Daytime Talk Show interview with Masha, played by Samantha Mirandola. In the gossipy, “tea-spilling” culture of these TV shows, relationships are usually a hot topic These types of TV shows really fit the nature of how we wanted to present our information because during these types of daytime television shows, relationships are usually a hot topic and it gets everyone on the panel talking. Whether the conversation adds any real value to the world is questionable.
Throughout the interview, the interviewers (played by Hannah Daudlin and Danielle Lim) are constantly wrapped up in themselves and trying to get as much detail out of Masha’s personal life as possible for the sake of the TV show. A common theme throughout The Seagull is the idea of self-absorption. Interviewers who care more about the answers Masha gives them than they do about her wellness reflect the state of mind of many characters in the play
Finally, since Masha is very open about her drinking in the play, she asks in our video as well. At first, the interviewers have a playful reaction, but slowly they realize Masha has a problem. They ignore it. We decided to include this aspect of her character to touch on the idea that Masha might be drinking as a coping mechanism. However, we were conscious of not focusing on her drinking as a driving point in our presentation, but as a secondary aspect about coping mechanisms as it relates to our thesis. “A drink isn’t bad in moderation! Kind of like loveless relationships!”
LOCATION AND THE SEAGULL
Marie Dagogo-Jack, Angelo Feliciano, Emily Radcliffe, Valeria Sabo
For our dramaturgy project, we created a real-estate website entitled STATUS HOMES. This website serves to explore the similarities and differences in setting in the original version of The Seagull (a Russian summer home, or dacha), and the University of Waterloo Theatre and Performance program's version of the play (a cottage in the Muskokas). We analyze the physical attributes, the cultural and societal implications of status, and the community norms of each type of summer home in the website. This is done through creating fictional rental/purchase listings for both the Russian dacha and the Muskoka cottage, and allows the viewer to compare and contrast both properties. The project serves to communicate and supplement the understanding of several integral aspects of the characters’ lives in The Seagull in the society around them. Happy second-home hunting from the STATUS HOME realtors!
NINA AS A SURVIVOR
Sammy Lawless, Tony Liu, Trevor Sinke, Sofia Slater, Wren Tourout
In The Seagull, Nina is often seen as a co-protagonist whose harsh experiences in the play make her seem the victim of a tragedy. However, Nina could also be the role of a true survivor, an important possibility in an era when life (especially for women) has become a struggle of achieving self-awareness and prosperity. In pursuing the research question, “What is the significance of portraying Nina as a survivor in The Seagull?”, we considered how the role of Nina represents a strong female character that audiences are able to relate to in their own stories, and provides guidance to those facing hardships in times of adversity. We looked at how portrayals of this role as positive and survival-based have been influenced by the emergence of feminist theory as a mainstream ideology; and also at ways in which portraying Nina as a survivor have made the play a more light-hearted comedy with an optimistic outlook on living, where things get better in the end, instead of getting worse.
Nina’s portrayal as a victim was common in productions of The Seagull from the 1900s to the 1970s, when there was an increase in her portrayal as a survivor influenced by suffragette movements (Johnson 2010). Nina was originally written by Anton Chekhov as a strong character with strength and integrity even through her suffering, as is seen especially towards the end of the play (Lahr 2017). Due to societal constraints on and perceptions of women throughout the twentieth century, this portrayal was lost to the more common one, a victim (Lahr 2017). Some actresses who portrayed Nina later in the 20th century (during the second wave of feminism) found a strong connection to her, proclaiming her character arc was ‘empowering for its time’ (Morely 2017, pg. 6), and boosting her reputation as a strong female role into the 21st century.
This artwork, “Survival’s Transformation”, is intended to be a representation of Nina’s survival through the trials and tribulations that women have faced in society and in literature throughout history. Our group created this piece to display the transition of Nina’s portrayal from a victim to a survivor through grim circumstances in the play and over the years that The Seagull has been in production (Johnson 2010). The split between the two halves of the character’s face reflects the shattering transformation from being objectified as merely a ‘woman’ to becoming an individual with raised self-awareness and empowerment. It also illustrates the linear development of Nina’s circumstances in the play from worse to better over time.
The half-monochromatic left side of the portrait includes a ‘standard’ face of an unsatisfied woman gritting her teeth with a dull gray backdrop, suiting herself to basic ‘normalcy,’ rounding out her features into a sense of what a woman is supposed to look like. This idea of uniformity represents the historical past of women being treated as simple, bland objects who were given the same status as property. It reflects Nina’s character at the start of the play, a girl fostered in a system that constantly challenged her with hardships, attempting to mold her into what a woman’s life was expected to be - a victim.
The colourized right side of the portrait includes an abstract face with a smile, covered in small cracks and spotted coloured frames that reflect the rainbow backdrop, reflecting the idea of breaking free of ‘normal’, shattering the predetermined mask to leave cracks that let the world around you seep in and form an individual defined by experiences. This side represents the modern shift toward self-expression and release from the expectations set upon people by society, aided by evolving feminist theory (Dumaine 2017). It reflects Nina’s life by the end of the play as she grows to learn from her hardships, breaking free of any man’s proposed title (Zubarev 2011) to see, feel and adapt into the new world before her against the pain of cracks in her figure - through survival.
How would you approach making a portrait of another character’s journey in The Seagull? How do they change from beginning to end? How do other characters cope with challenges, suffering, or the expectations that others have of them? What choices do they make that are similar to or different from Nina’s choices?
Madie Bennett, Saffiya Kherraji, Rachel Lazare, Justine Pires