The Seagull | Austin Shakespeare | The Long Center for the Performing Arts

Austin Shakespeare: Views on Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’

Austin Shakespeare is livening up February with Chekhov’s The Seagull, a beautiful story of family, love and fame. Set in 19th-century Russia, Austin Shakespeare gave us a glimpse into what it’s been like to adapt this famous revolutionary play and what those in it are most looking forward to.  

The Seagull | Austin Shakespeare | The Long Center for the Performing ArtsAdapting Chekhov?

Director/Adaptor Ann Ciccolella explained: “I love working on this script. This is not a translation. No, I don’t know Russian. But I am very familiar with the script, I directed it in New York years ago and I’ve studied 7 or 8 versions. Now I want to create one that is vital to our audiences and that actors could speak with ease. I was gratified to learn form Russian translators that Chekhov himself loved plain, simple language. And that’s what we aimed for.”

How are you using research?

Our dramaturg, Marina Alexandrova, was born in Russia and teaches plays in Russian in UT’s Slavic Languages Department. Marina has been enormously helpful in giving us a strong sense of the Russian manner in social interactions and their attitudes, especially in the 19th Century. And, of course, in helping with translation choices. She also suggested that our actors watch an award-winning film to inspire a lively style: An Unfinished Piece for Player Piano (1977) based on several Chekhov stories.

The Seagull | Austin Shakespeare | The Long Center for the Performing ArtsWhy is it called “The Seagull?”

The writer, Trigorin, comes upon a seagull that the younger playwright Konstantine has shot. It inspires Trigorin to invent a story that he shares with the plays ingénue, Nina: “A young girl, like you, lives all her life beside a lake, she loves the lake like a gull—and she is happy and free like a gull. By chance, a man comes and sees her, and having nothing better to do, destroys her, like this seagull here.” The story impacts Nina’s life tremendously.

The actors of Austin Shakespeare anticipate The Seagull…

“I’m shocked at how funny it turns out to be. It excites me, like I’ve discovered a new play. (Chekhov calls this play a “comedy.”) “And it’s my favorite kind of funny—comedy that moves me.” Helen Merino, who plays the lovelorn “Masha”.

“I’m most excited to explore when and how Irina is ‘performing’ and when her mask comes off—and we see her emotional truth.” Tyler Layton, who plays the celebrated actress “Irina.”

Taylor Layton | Austin Shakespeare | The Long Center for the Performing Arts

“Since Tyler Layton arrived in Austin a year ago, I have admired the spirit and energy she has brought to St. Edward’s theater, and I’m really looking forward to working on The Seagull with her.” Ev Lunning, Jr., who plays her brother, “Sorin.”

“I’m looking forward to fishing for Trigorin once again on a lake that shimmers like a Monet painting.” Matt Radford, who plays the writer, “Trigorin.”

“I think it will be a beautifully designed show, with an acting ensemble that works together beautifully in performance. If you’ve never seen Chekhov before, this is a great place to start.” Corinna Browning, who plays the young love interest, “Nina.”

“I am most looking forward to witnessing that connective tissue materialize between actors, the words, the design—that turns our humble efforts into a real living world!” Andrew Mathews, who plays the young playwright, “Konstantine.”

Catch Austin Shakespeare’s The Seagull February 8 – 27, with a discounted preview February 7 in Rollins Studio Theatre. There is also a low-priced “Informance” for students 11am-12:15pm Thursday, February 22. Contact for more information.


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