ANTON CHEKHOV AND STAGE STORY

All of life and human relations have become so incomprehensibly complex that, when you think about it, it becomes terrifying and your hearts stand still.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov wrote 17 plays and almost 600 stories.

He spent the summer of 1888 in Ukraine where he wrote several one-act plays, including the The Bear, a magnificent sketch of emotional warfare between the sexes.

The Bear, subtitled a ‘Theatrical joke in One-Act’, is one of Anton Chekhov’s lesser-known plays. He dedicated the play to his friend N. N. Solovtsov, in memory of Solovtsov’s boorish performance in a French vaudeville. With its fast-paced, biting dialogue, accidentally broken furniture, and exaggerated emotions that quickly morph into their opposites, this three-character story hews closely to the form of vaudeville, condensing much of human nature into a single act of bizarre comedy and triumph. In the unpredictable turbulence of the emotional world, anger veers into passion.

Just to while away the time, I wrote a trivial little vaudeville in the French manner, called The Bear . . . Alas! What am I to do? I plan something worthwhile—and—it is all tra-la-la! In spite of all my attempts at being serious the result is nothing; with me the serious alternates with the trivial!

Chekhov clearly enjoyed this new genre of ‘new vaudeville’ being rather a theatrical joke with no dancing or singing, punching holes into the stiff dignity of societal conventions.

The Bear had its premiere in Korsh Theatre in Moscow on October 28, 1888 and was immediately successful.

Its English language premiere was in London in 1911 and the first production in the United States took place in New York in 1915.

In 1935, Russian theatre producer Vsevolod Meyerhold produced 33 Swoons (also translated as 33 Fainting Fits), a production combining Chekhov’s The Anniversary, The Bear and The Proposal. Meyerhold counted 33 cases of swooning and combined these three plays with swooning as the key comedic gag.

In Chekhov’s lifetime The Bear brought him regular royalties. It has been frequently revived on both professional and amateur stages worldwide ever since.

A SELECTION OF CHEKHOV QUOTES

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.

Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.

Love, friendship and respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.

Doctors are the same as lawyers; the only difference is that lawyers merely rob you, whereas doctors rob you and kill you too.

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.

Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.

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