For the past two weeks, November 8 to the 18, the Center Stage Theater at Southern Oregon University presented the play “Three Sisters,” directed by Scott Kaiser and adapted by Libbey Appel.
Set in Russia during the early 1900’s, the play was originally written by Russian play writer, Anton Chekhov in 1900. SOU students Hanna Gassaway, Chelsea Mia Acker, and Rachel Seeley performed the three sisters, Olga, Masha and Irina.
The performance began with the three sisters desperately trying to find happiness after the death of their father from the previous year. The search for happiness became a common struggle among all of the characters. Each character attempts to find true happiness in their own way, but it is never permanent.
With that said, “Three Sisters” directly relates to the campus theme of Happiness. “It’s about each character’s personal search for what they think will make them the happiest and the realization that they are not always right,” said SOU student Tyler Kubat, who played Russian lieutenant Tuzenbach in the performance.
“The character I was playing was constantly looking in the past to try and find happiness and not knowing where to go in the future, kind of [thinking]: ‘all of my happy moments were from before’ like a lot of people experience these days: ‘the best times of my life are in college or in high school’. And [he’ just constantly looking back to try to hold on to this thing and falling short of it every single time,” explained SOU student Scott Key of the struggle experienced by his character in the performance, army doctor Ivan Romanovich.
Olga, Masha and Irina, along with their brother Andrey (Darek Riley) believe that their happiness can only be achieved through moving to Moscow. However, this dream of living in Moscow never becomes reality.
“It’s sort of about the journey of the non-journey. The best way that I can explain it is that a Chekhov play is like an episode of Seinfeld, in that absolutely nothing happens but the way in which nothing happens is the important part,” explained Kubat.
The beauty of “Three Sisters” is that each person experiencing it can interpret it completely different. “It’s up to the audience and the actor to decide what [the play] means to them. It was trying to capture human beings in a pretty vulnerable place,” said Kubat.
Kubat brought to light that even though the play revolved around tragedy and disappointment, it also made the audience laugh, possibly unexpectedly, from moments of self-awareness reflected in the performance. The play parallels the difficulties faced by people in real life and the glimpses of happiness experienced within those difficulties, revealing a strong connection to human nature shared by many.
“When it got to performance time, we were introduced to the audience and kind of where they laugh and we got to feel where that was, and then another audience would come in and laugh where no other audience had laughed before and it was like they saw something in there that they related to on a very personal level that no one else had seen before,” explained Key.
While there was a strong presence to the story being told in “Three Sisters”, there was also underlying messages being shared. “You should just keep trying to find out what drives you and what gets you to the next place and what makes you better. And even if you fail somewhere along the way, its kind of important to go on that journey and a lot of [characters] in the show fail and a lot of people in life kind of fail at finding [happiness], so I think that’s the message of the show: that 95% of the time you won’t find it, but you’ll keep trying to find it,” Key interpreted.
“I think it’s less about what the story is, I don’t know if Chekhov is necessarily as concerned with that, as he was with capturing human nature and capturing that grass is always greener thing,” said Kubat.
Sometimes trying too hard to be happy could have the opposite effect, pushing you farther away from achieving it. Investing your happiness in a far off place, such as your past or an actual destination, may not always be the answer to happiness either.
Maybe at times, focusing on the positives in the life that is right in front of you is the most important thing; being present and enjoying the little things instead of looking too strongly at the past or the future.
Again, the insight gained from the Chekhov’s play is different for each person who experiences it, so if you saw the play or even just read this article, what are your personal insights in relation to the campus theme of Happiness?