In the light of your study of Stanislavski and after seeing Miss Julie how would you direct the opening act of Three Sisters?

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Hayley Sheath        Page         

In the light of your study of Stanislavski and after seeing Miss Julie how would you direct the opening act of Three Sisters?

The opening of Act One of Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’, gives detailed stage directions, which offers valuable information on the main characters of the play; the three sisters, Irina, Masha and Olga. As a director, I would encourage the actors playing these roles to read the information, as it defines clearly the different characters of the sisters, and so can be used for characterisation. As a director, I am fully aware that 'Three Sisters' is a realist play; therefore, this would prompt me to use Stanislavski methods to develop true to life portrayals of the characters.

The following is a sketch of Act One:

During the opening of the play the three sisters will sit in their designated areas and the audience will watch while Olga marks her books, Irina puts on make-up for her party, and Masha reads a book on the window seat, subdued. In the background (the ballroom), the table will be laid by a servant, which could be played by Anfisa, the old nurse. The ‘clip-clop’ sound of her heels as she rushes about will make stark contrast to the silence of the sisters. I aspire to obtain the audience to suspend their disbelief, and remain this through-out the play. This idea is heavily influenced by the theatre production of ‘After Miss Julie’.

My intention is for the audience to see the closeness of the relationship between Olga and Irina. Moreover, to see how Masha is the recluse of the sisters, and overlooked by them due to her quietness and concealed emotions. Olga (as indicated by her ‘regulation dark-blue dress of a high school teacher’) is the mother figure for the sisters, especially Irina, who never really knew her mum. Irina seems distant from her sisters, as she is the only young one left, and she is still happy-go-lucky and enjoys her life without worry. Olga is the oldest, and uses this to boss the others sisters around. Olga is the only sister to work, and so is constantly moaning about her work. She revels in being the sister with authority, but also resents it, as she feels forced into work since her fathers’ death. Her movements should be very swift, and she should constantly be moving around, making herself busy, yet achieving nothing, reflecting a theme of the play. This will create humour for the audience, as they will see her fussing over everything, yet doing nothing. Her movements should be very rapid, restless, and hurried.

 Using Stanislavski’s methods, I would find out the super objective of Olga’s character, to create naturalism. Personally, I believe Olga’s motivations in life are to return to Moscow, and find a husband. This is from the social context of the play, where many women believed they needed a husband to achieve true happiness, and also a husband would result in Olga not needing a job. To show this in the play I will show Olga being extremely interested in Tuzenback and flirtatiously behaving with him as he talks about Vershinin. This can be achieved by making lots of eye contact with him and her moving closer to him, until she hears he has a wife, and then she will sharply turn away. An objective of Olga’s character is to continue working, although she says ‘It wears me out’, I believe she loves it and could not just sit at home like the other sisters. This arises one of the themes of the play ‘work’. None of the sisters worked previously as they are wealthy and do not have the need to work. I believe Chekhov used this to show that you need to work to have ambition and achieve in life. This is shown in the play, as all the sisters’ ambition is to return to Moscow, yet none of them does anything towards this ambition. Chekhov himself was born into a poor family, but worked hard and achieved an amazing amount. I think this highlights the social context of the play between rich and poor.

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        Rich and poor is an underlying theme of Act One, and was an important issue in the era of the play. Natasha is of low class, and so discriminated against by the sisters who believe she is not good enough for their beloved Andrew. Masha in particular scrutinises everything about Natasha, from her clothes, which are ‘downright pathetic’ to her make-up and hair. This shows a very materialistic viewpoint, and shows no intent to get to know Natasha, just judge her because of her class. This also shows how much the sisters love Andrew and do not want him getting ...

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