Russian Theatre Artist Provides Technique Training to Westover Cast of Uncle Vanya

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Russian Theatre Artist Provides Technique Training to Westover Cast of Uncle Vanya
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Tatyana Khaikin from the Theatre School of Konstantin Raikin in Moscow provides training in theatre technique to cast and crew of "Uncle Vanya."

The cast and crew of Westover's upcoming production of Uncle Vanya meet with Tatyana Khaikin (standing in center) of the Theatre School of Konstantin Raikin in Moscow. At the invitation of Westover Theatre Program Director Marla Truini (standing at right), Khaikin visited to introduce the students to the technique of Etudes.

Russian Theatre Artist Provides Technique Training to Westover Cast of Uncle Vanya

The cast and crew of Westover's upcoming production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya recently welcomed a special guest from Moscow—Tatyana Khaikin, Head of the Department of International Educational Programs and Projects for the Theatre School of Konstantin Raikin.

During her visit, Khaikin introduced the students to the technique of Études, an approach to character investigation first pioneered by the Russian theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold, and later employed by Konstantin Stanislavski who was to develop a systematic approach to training actors known as "The Method."

Uncle Vanya, directed by Marla Truini, Westover's Director or Drama, will be presented on Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, at 7 pm in the School's Louise B. Dillingham (LBD) Performing Arts Center.

"I reached out to ask her to offer a workshop on Études at the very beginning of rehearsals for Uncle Vanya" Marla said, "because I had seen Tatyana in action at the Moscow Art Theatre School, where my son Chris was studying in 2014. Tatyana is both a veteran theatre artist and also a long-time translator for all the top Russian theatre directors and teachers of our time, so she is on the cutting edge of this kind of work with young actors."

In preparation for their work with Khaikin, the cast sat together and read Uncle Vanya twice, then spent two days of preliminary work thinking and talking about the given circumstances of the play.

When Khaikin arrived at Westover, she got right down to work. "We first talked a little about what the play means and about the structure of the Étude," Khaikin said, "which helped them to get into the nitty-gritty of their characters' lives." In undertaking the method, Khaikin explained, "the actor imagines situations and events form the character's life that might have happened during, before, or even after the events of the play." Focusing on those situations, the actor investigates certain aspects of the character, imagining how she might react to a certain set of circumstances. The actor, Khaikin said, then asks herself, "What was her state of mind? What was her state of being?" In essence, the actor discovers the character before she begins to learn her lines. Khaikin worked one-on-one with the actors, coaching them after they presented a brief Étude. "I was filled with admiration just watching Tatyana in action," Marla said.

"Together with daily exercises and a written 'Who am I?' assignment, the Études lay a foundation for a clear approach to this complicated material," Marla said. "They are like doing sketches before you do a large painting."

Entrance to the LBD Performing Arts Center is on South Street in Middlebury. Parking is available on the street or at St. John of the Cross Church. Please call 203.577.4535 for reservations or for additional information.