The Chekhov roundtable, clockwise from bottom left: Thomas Riccio, Steven Young, Katherine Owens, Emily Scott Banks and Mark Lowry

Talking Chekhov

In the first episode of our theater podcast, hosted by Thomas Riccio and Mark Lowry, directors Emily Scott Banks, Katherine Owens and Steven Young discuss the Chekhov Zeitgeist.

published Friday, October 27, 2017

Photo: Stolen Shakespeare Guild
The Three Sisters at Stolen Shakespeare Guild, adapted and directed by Steven Young


Dallas — Welcome! TheaterJones has a new theater podcast, which is without a name at this point. We've thought of several possibilities, such as Off Book and Subtext, but they are taken by other podcasts. If you have a good suggestion for us, send to or comment on this story. If we pick yours, we'll recognize it as your suggestion.

In the meantime, let's go on with the podcast. It will join our classical music podcast Between the Barlines, hosted by pianist Jonathan Tsay. We also hope to add dance and comedy podcasts soon. You can access all of our podcasts on our SoundCloud page, and we will have them available via iTunes and Stitcher soon.

The theater podcast will be hosted by Mark Lowry, TJ editor and co-founder, and Thomas Riccio, who heads the theater department at University of Texas at Dallas and runs the immersive theatrical outfit Dead White Zombies. Sometimes the podcast will be hosted by either Mark or Thomas; othertimes by both. Or we mght have guest hosts. 

Our plan is to explore theatrical topics that relate to the local theater community, but also themes and trends happening nationally and internationally. For instance, for future podcasts, we want to talk about dramatrugy, all elements of desgn, the importance of new works, the decline of theater and arts coverage in local media (that's very much a national trend, BTW), and sometimes we'll talk to a local actor, director, playwright or theatermaker about what they do. If you have an idea, pitch it to us! (See email link above.)

For the first episode we talk about the trend of contemporary playwrights adapting or riffing on one the greatest, most influential theatrical writers, Anton Chekhov. He has long inspired theater writers and makers, including Tennessee Williams, Horton Foote, Howard Barker, David Rabe and Emily Mann. Dallas native Regina Taylor's Seagull adaptation Drowning Crow was on Broadway in 2004. Former WaterTower Theatre artistic director Terry Martin adapted Uncle Vanya as A Country Life in the 2000s. In the current decade, we've seen adaptations by great contemporary writers like Annie Baker, Sarah Ruhl and Halley Feiffer. Christopher Durang won a Tony for his comedy on Chekhov themes, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, in 2013. Aaron Posner has riffed on The Seagull and Uncle Vanya. Those are just a few examples.

In 2018, a new film of The Seagull will be released; it's directed by Michael Mayer with a screenplay by Stephen Karam (of the Tony-winning play The Humans), and features Elizabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan, Mare Winningham, Annette Benning and Brian Dennehy.

For this conversation, we assembled the following panel:

  • Steven Young, a theater professor at Texas Woman's University, director and playwright who has previously adapted The Cherry Orchard, and currently has adapted The Three Sisters for Fort Worth's Stolen Shakespeare Guild. That production closes Oct. 29 and is part of its Classics Fest, paired with Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. The final performances of Sisters are 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.
  • Emily Scott Banks, who is currently directing Aaron Posner's Life Sucks., a riff on Uncle Vanya, for Stage West in Fort Worth running through Nov. 4. She also directed Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird, a riff on The Seagull, for Stage West last season. Read our review here.
  • Katherine Owens, co-founder and artistic director of Undermain Theatre, which is producing Sarah Ruhl's adaptation of Three Sisters in the spring of 2018. Undermain has also done The Seagull and David Rabe's adaptation of the Chekhov short story The Black Monk.

In this podcast, we discuss adapting and directing Chekhov, why he's in the Zeitgeist, the significance of talking about Russia at this moment in history, Chekhov as symbolist and as environmentalist, the specificity of his comedy and melancholia, American adversity to philosophy and poetry, and the influences of his work on filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, Twin Peaks, and even cat videos.

TheaterJones thanks Undermain Theatre for hosting us for the podcast, where they set up a table to look it might appear on the set of a Chekhov play.

You can listen to the podcast in our player here, or you can download it with the download symbol on the right side of the player. You can also listen to the podcast on our SoundCloud page.






Photo: Evan Michael Woods
Kally Duncan in Aaron Posner's Life Sucks. at Stage West, directed by Emily Scott Banks

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Talking Chekhov
In the first episode of our theater podcast, hosted by Thomas Riccio and Mark Lowry, directors Emily Scott Banks, Katherine Owens and Steven Young discuss the Chekhov Zeitgeist.
by Mark Lowry

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