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CHAPTER.

XXXIV
T}IE
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acquaintance with Chekhov's " Seagull " I did not understand the essence, the Aroma, the beauty of his play. I wrote the tnise en scine, and still I did not understand, 4 wn\o myself, I had apparently felt its substance. lWhcn I directed tlrt pla! I still did not understand it. But some of\ the inner threads of /he play attracted me, although I did not notice\evolution thp.r6d taken place in me.

HAVE already said that after my first

The r6le of the fashionableT?fiEi Trigorin, the literary antipode of tlre talented Treplev who is his rival in the love of Nina Zarechnaya, the heroine of the play, a youlg, naive, provincial girl, was somehow beyond my powcrs. Yet nevertheless I was in the play, I was bound to it innerly, and together with the other actors sincerely gave myself up to the mood that was being created on the stage. The Chekhov mood is that cave in which are kept all the unseen and$@ffiaUi" treasures ot Ln sciousness. This cave is that vessel in which.js_hldjlen the gteat riches ---"-l-^, gf Chekhov.. One muqt know hqtillU6nd the place where*it is hiddgn; one must be able to find the vessel itself, that is, the mood; one must know how hov's art so uncscapable. Apparently there are many ryays to the hidden riches, to the entrance into the soul of the Flay, the r6les and
them.

and,he r6,es I the ree,ings which;":"i: could not speak of them and preferred to illustrate them. When I entered into a debate of words I was not understood and I was not persuasive. When I mounted the stage and showed what I was talking about, I became understandable and eloquent. True, often these varied approaches to the play interfered with the work and the rehearsals and caused long discussions which passed from debates of a detail to debates about principles, from the r6le to the play, from the play to art, from art to its fundamentals. There were even quarrels, but these quarrels were always of artistic origin and they were more useful thau dangerous. They taught us that very essnce which we seemed to foreknow in its general outlines, but not in concrete, systematic and clear rules. We seemed to be digging tunnels from two opposite sides towards one central point. Little by little we approached each other I now only a thin wall separated us; now the wall was broken and we could easily pass from the literary to the artistic and unite them for the general procession of the actors along the way that we had found. Once we found that inner line of the play, which we could not define in words at that time, everything became comprehensible of itself not only to the actors and the stage directors, but to the artist and the electrician and the coshtmier and all the other co-creators of the production. Along this line of inner action, which Chekhov has in a gTeater degree than any other dramatist, although until this time only actors are aware of it, there was formed a natural force of gravity towards the play itself, which pulled all of us in one direction. Much was correctly guessed by the interpreter of the play, NemirovichDanchenko, much by the stage directors, the mise efl scAnc, the interpreters of the roles (with the exception of myself), the scenic artist,

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and the properties.

Nemirovich-Danchenko and I approached the hidden riches each in his own way, Vladirnir Ivanovich by the literary road and I by the road of the actor, the road of images. Vladimir Ivanovich spoke of

Simov understood my plans and purpose of stage direction and began to help me marvelously towards the creation of the mood. On the very forestage, right near the footlights, in direct opposition to all

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MY LIFE IN ART
the accepted laws and customs of the theatre of that time, almost all the persons in the play sat on a long swinging bench characteristic of Russian country estates, with their backs to the public. This bench,
placed in a line with some tree stumps that remained from a destroyed

THE SEAGULL"
tents and beautiful generalized form. How talented is this Treplev with the soul of Chekhov and a true comprehension of art. Nina Zarechnaya is the cause of the failure of Treplev's talented play. She is not an actress, although she dreams of being one so as to earn the love of the worthless Trigorin. She does not understand what she is playing. She is too young to unclerstand the deep gloom of the soul of Treplev. She has not yet suffered enough to perceive the eternal tragedy of the rvorld. She must first fall in love with the scoundrelly l-ovelace Trigorin and give hinr all that is beautiful in woman, give it to him in vain, at an accidental meeting in some low
inn. meaninglessly as the beautiful white seagull was killed by Treplev because of nothing to do. Poor Nina, before understanding the-depTlTof what she is playing, must bear a chiid in secret, must suffer hunger

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forest, bordered an alley set with century-old trees that stood at a measured distance from each other. In the spaces between their trunks, which seemed mysterious in the darkness of night, there showed something in the forrn of a proscenium that was closed from sight by a large white sheet. This was the open-air theatre of the

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Treplev. The scenery and. properties of this theatre are poor and modest. But listen to the essence of his art and you find that it is a complete grammar for the actor of to-day. Treplev speaks of real art in the midst of night, amidst the trees of a damp and ancient park, waiting for the rising of the moon. Meanwhile from the distance there comes the trivial racket of a fashionable and tasteless waltz that changes at times to an even more tasteless but melodious Gipsy song played by Treplev's mother, a provincial

unsuccessful and unacknowledged

just as - The youns and beautiful life is deformed and killed

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and privation many years, dragging herself through the lower depths of all the provincial theatres, must come to know the scoundrelly atten-

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tions of

actress. The tragedy is self-evident. can the provincial mother understand the complex longings of her talented son ? It is not at all amazing that he runs away from the house to the park so often.

To the accompaniment of
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tasteless conversation and jokes, the

domestic spectators take their olaces on the long bench and the tree stumps, their backs to the public, very much like sparrows on a tele-

line. The moon rises, the sheet falls, one sees the lake, its surface broken with the silver gleams of the moon. on a high eminence

that resembles the base of a monument, sits a grief-stricken female figure wrapped in manifold white, but with eyes that are young and shining and cannot be grief-stricken. This is Nina Zarechnaya in the costurne of World Grief, the long train of which, like the tail of a snake, is stretched over grass and undergrowth. The wide cloth was a courageous gesture on the part of the artist, a gesture of deep con-

to a young actress, must come to know her own giftlessness, in order to be able in her last fareweli meeting with Treplev in the fourth act of the play to feel at last all the eternal and tragic depth of Treplev's monologue, and perhaps for the last anri only time say it like a true actress and force Treplev and the spectators in the theatre to shed holy tears called forth by the power of art. The conditions under which we produced " The Seagull " were complex and hard. The production was necessary to us because of the of the life of our Theatre. Business was in a nistration hurried our labors. And suddenly way. The ill in Yalta with a new attack of tuberculosis. Anton Pavlovic 6ndition was such that if " The Seagull " should fail as it at its first production in Petrograd, the great poet would not b to weather the blow. His sister Maria Pavlovna warned us of thi with tears in her eyes, when, on the eve of the performance, she us to postpone it. You can judge of the condition in which
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MY LIFE IN ART
we actors played on the first night before a small but chosen audience. There were only six hundred rubles in the box office. when we were

..THE SEAGULL''
fianciuofstrangersforallofthesummer,a'llourbelongingshadbeen
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takenawayandstoredinasmallbarn.InordertoshowChekhova

on the stage there was an inncr whisper in our hearts: " You must play well, you must play better than well; you must create not onty success, but triumph, for know that if you do not, the man and writer you love will die, killed by your hands.', These inner whispering:s did not aid our creative inspiration. The boards were becoming the floor of a gallowq and we actors the
executioners. do not rernember how we played. The first act was over. There was a gravelike silence. Knipper fainted on the stage. All of us could

almost the same single performance, we would have had to go through the whole amount of preparatory work as we did for the beginning of
season, that is, we would have had

hardly keep our feet. In the throes of despair we began moving to our dressing rooms. suddenly there was a roar in the auditorium, and a shriek of joy or fright on the stage. The curtain was lifted. fell, was lifted again, showing the whole auditorium our amazed and astounded immovability. It fell again, it rose ; it fell, it rose, and we could not even gather sense enough to bow. Then there .tilere congratulations and embraces like those of Easter night, and ovations to Lilina, who pleled.Mashe, and rvhe had broken the ice with-her last words which tore themselvgg :huu*her heart, mqaqg_-:uashed with tears. This it was that had held the audience mute for a time b,fore it began to roar and thunder in mad ovation. we were no longer afraid of sending a telegram to our dear and beloved friend and poet. Ill'ess prevented Anton Pavlovich'chekhov from coming to Moscow during the season. But in the spring of 1899 he arrived with the secret hope of seeing " The Seagull " a'd demanded that we show it to him. " Listen, it is necessary for me. I am its author. How can I write anything else until I have seen it? " he repeated at every favorable opportunity. What were rve to do ? The season was o\rer, the theatre was in the

to hire a theatre and stage hands to to bring unpack the scenery, the properties, the costumes, the wigs, and put them to the theatre, to collect the actors, to rehearse the play, to in the necessary lighting system, and so on' And as a result of all this, the special performance would be a failure. It would be impossible to arrange it in a hurry. The inexperienced actors, not being used to the new stage, would lose themselves completely, and that would be the worst thing that could happen, especially in a Chekhov play' Besides, the auditorium of a theatre hired by chance would be devoid of all furniture, as the latter would be in the hands of cabinet makers and upholsterers during all summer for renovation. The play would have no appeal in an empty theatre. And Chekhov would be disappointed. But the words of chekhov were a law to us, and once he insisEd' it
was necessary

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to fulfil his wishes.

The special performance took place in


was attended by Chekhov and about ten othe sion, as we had expected, was only middling. After every act Chekhov joy' But as ran on the stage and his face bore no signs of any inner soon as he saw the backstage activities, he would regain his courage and smile, for he loved the life of the thgatre behind the scenes. Some of the actors were praised by Chekhov, others received their full meed of blame. This was true of one actress especially, with whose work Chekhov was completely dissatisfied. " Listen," he said, " she can't act
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in my play' You have another actress who could be much finer in the part, who is a much better
., But how can we take away the part once the season is over? " we defended ourselves. " That would amount to the same thing as if
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MY LIFE IN ART
we threw her out of the company. Think what a blow that would be. She won't lN able to bear it." " Listn, I will take the play away from you," he summed up in a
severe rvay, almost crueliy, surprising us by his hardness and firmness.

..THE SEAGULL'"
without noticing that he is not talented, that he is not handsome, that he wears checked trousers an{ torn shoes. Only afterwards, when the love affair with such " seaEsrlls'1 ,t oo # , r rL^ -'^-t -^^2..^ i- +Lair which created the great genius in their @n h and the rich.f Ch.kh""'s laconic remarks struck nre. It was very typical
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Notwithstanding his exceptionat tenderness, detricacy and kindness, he was severe and merciless in questions of art and never accepted any compromises. In order not to anger and excite the sick man, we did not contradict him, hoping that with time everything would be forgottn. But no. Unexpectedly, rvhen no one even dreamt that he lvould say it, Chekhov would repeat: " Listen, she can't act in my play."
the special performance he seemed to be trying to avoid rne. I waited for him in my dressing roorn, but he did not come. That was a bad sign. I went to him rnyself.

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" Scold me, Anton Pavlovich," I begged him. " Wonderful ! Listen, it was wonderful I Only you
shoes and checked trousers."

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He would tell me no more. What did it mean ? Did he wish not to express his opinion? Was it a jest to get rid of rne? Was he laughing at me? iter, a _Jr-tg*i" i" " fne S"rg favorite of the wornen and suddenlv he was to wea! torn shees and ---en[er.*a+ro';@most elegant of costumeswhite trousers, white vest, white hat, slippers, and a handsome
make-up.

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-'/ ^ A yearrof more passed. Again I played the part of Trigorin in " Thefeagull " and during one of the performances I suddenly
undCrstood what Chekhov had meanl

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" Of course, the shoes must be torn and the trousers checked, and Trigorin must not be handsome. In this lies the salt of the part: for young, inexperienced girls it is important that a man should be a writer and print touching and sentimental romances, and the Nina Zarechnayas, one after the other, will throw themselves on his neck,

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