Melikhovo theatre “Chekhov Studio”

Melikhovo theatre opened its first season in September 2006. Theatre "Chekhov Studio" is an integral part of the Museum-Reserve of A.P. Chekhov "Melikhovo". There is no doubt that this Studio is a unique phenomenon, since there are very few museums in the world that can be proud of such a treasure as its own theatre company. And the reader should not be confused by the word "Studio" which is generally associated with some student half-amateur theatrical formation. "Chekhov Studio" - is a real theatre staffed with permanent professional actors. Besides, the Studio has its administration, production units and premises. Its distinctive feature lies in the fact that its repertoire basically consists of works of one author. However, we must say that the theater was created essentially from a brand new effort. General Director of the Museum-Reserve Konstantin Bobkov and ex-Theatre Director and teacher Vladimir Baycher were those who initiated formation of this Studio. In the very beginning there were no acceptable conditions in Melikhovo Museum-Reserve. Neither for rehearsals nor for performances. The theatre was formed gradually and not in easy way, because there was no special "honeypot" for actors to join the company. Anyway, the theatre stepwise assembled a team of bright, strong and original actors who were able to play almost everything: from a chamber staging or performance to a large serious drama. As a result, the school of Russian psychological theater was used as a creative basis of the Melikhovo theatre. This school does not mean frozen director’s schemes and methods of acting on a stage.

The first theatrical opus of "Chekhov Studio" was the performance based on the famous play-the joke by A. P. Chekhov The Bear. First the Melikhovo theatre team closely read this "joke", and then the performance proved to be bright, vivid and dynamic. But at the same time there was a sort of a sinking feeling in The Bear that made the audience to have some pity on two lost lonely people through laughter. Having gained more experience, the theater, however, was in no hurry to take over great dramatic works of A. P. Chekhov, and continued to study the writer’s fiction through staging his short stories. So, there emerged the performance Dacha/Country theatre of Antosha Chekhonte. It was staged by Tatiana Voronina under the direction of Vladimir Baycher.

In fact, when Anton Chekhov lived in Melikhovo, his dacha/country life, with its simple entertainment, jokes, pranks on one another, home theater, was a real hive of activity. And all these features were translated into an easy, homely but heart-touching performance. The other five stories by Chekhov were used as a basis of theatrical composition called Psychopaths. It was also staged under the supervision of Vladimir Baycher by young directors - graduates of the workshop of Professor Leonid Yefimovich Heifetz in the State Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS): Artem Baskakov, Kirill Loskutov and Rustem Fesak.

Psychopaths is not only the name of the play, but the key word for the directional understanding of the psychology of characters Chekhov depicted. According to one of the young Directors they "had a creative urge to find in Chekhov some unusual sense of Nikolai Gogol." The stories are combined through the fact that their characters are suffering in varying degrees with certain mental disorders. But actually there is no pathology on the stage in the truest sense of the word; the performance is very easy, inventive and rather witty.

Up to a certain time "Chekhov Studio" had no specially equipped stage; actors performed either on the veranda of the Main house of the Melikhovo estate, or in the Theatre and Exhibition Hall. But at last in 2010, the theatre finally found its cozy "corner". By the 150th anniversary of A. P. Chekhov, the decision was made to restore household buildings on the territory of the Museum-Reserve land. Construction of a durable timber building was also in the list of these premises; formerly it was used as a farmyard. Thus, the very farmyard has become a "Theatrical courtyard". The "Chekhov Studio" team pretty quickly settled down in this new facility and made it very nice. From the theatrical sense, the Studio moved into a space of a big wooden building which became a part of the new play The Duel based on the famous story by A. P. Chekhov. This performance was a milestone in the creative development of the theatre. If before, the Studio attempted «to hit at» small plays, and staged versions of stories by A. P. Chekhov, The Duel was a large-scale and ambitious theatrical undertaking. The first part of the play was given on the pond "Aquarium" surrounded by elderly respectable Berlin poplars whereas the second one - in the "Theatrical courtyard" building. At the present time due to reconstruction of the Main house, the performance has "found" its shelter here.

Next year the Melikhovo theatre used «Theatrical courtyard» to show the play The Landlady on the basis of the early short story by Anton Chekhov. This performance has a special place in the repertoire of the theatre. You may ask why? Perhaps, primarily, because the story is not very typical for this early period of the writer: along with his funny satirical articles and jokes by Antosha Chekhonte. And suddenly, a pen of a 22-year-old Chekhov wrote a tragic and hopeless story about a sensual, arrogant mistress and her seduced loose village young man who kills his poor young wife in a drunken stupor. High tragedy under the title of The Landlady is shocking. No wonder in 2014 this performance was invited to the festival dedicated to the 110th memorial date since the death of Anton Chekhov in Badenweiler.

The Melikhovo Theatre performances staged for young spectators make up quite a special matter. Although, as we know, Chekhov never wrote specifically for children. Story Kashtanka, for example, is written in rather adult and hardline manner and no doubt without a desire to please the kids. However, a theatrical interpretation of Kashtanka (Dream of Kashtanka the Dog) staged by Rustem Fesaka as a director, captures the audience and fascinates primarily children. This is a lyrical and tragicomic narrative of adventures and unusual life metamorphoses that are perceived by the little red dog as an amazing dream.

Besides that, theatre actor Evgeny Pekker staged a wonderful performance Chizhik-Pyzhik, where have you been...? where children - are the main characters. It is based on some other stories by Chekhov: The Boys, Vanka, A Joke and The Kids. Children depicted by Chekhov in these stories, are people with their own world, problems and their own understanding the difference between right and wrong in this life.

Actress and Director Marina Suvorova staged the play Workman Balda/A Blockhead based on the tale by Alexander Pushkin The Tale of the Priest and of his Workman Balda; and here, she decided to make it in the form of a funfair travelling show. Then in a team with the same Director and production designer Tatyana Fedyushina there came a jolly performance for kids In a Fairy-Tale Kingdom (based on fairy tales The Princess and the Pea and The Swineherd by Hans Christian Andersen).

Melikhovo actors feel quite at home in light comedy of hilarious and ironic show. They are so natural and glamorous on the stage that can easily charm not only children but also their parents to join the game.

It is very important to point out that Anton Pavlovich Chekhov always remains the major author for the theatre. But from time to time its repertoire is enriched with performances based on works of writers who are close to him spiritually. The first of those was Alexander Vampilov. It was decided to stage his known play The Eldest Son. At that time it was staged by different theatres in Russia and besides, its screen version had a great success. Vladimir Baycher also took a chance to make up his version of the play. As its director he called his performance Good evening, dad! It was consistent with the original intent of the playwright. Anyway, he identified the genre of his way of staging in a rather peculiar way: A vintage Comedy with a guitar.

There is another not Chekhov's play of the "Chekhov Studio" theatre. It was performance A Nature Reserve, a stage version of the famous short novel by Sergei Dovlatov. It was a young actor and Director Dmitry Pchela who dared to stage the novel. Despite the fact that, as was written in one review, «…the Director is clearly avoiding political and social contexts of Dovlatov's text, thus giving priority to a human story»; however, the performance, in the words of Shakespeare, " turn'st my very eyes into my soul " and forces the viewer to think about whether we live in now in the XXI century?!

In 2015, one more performance was added to the repertory of the theatre. Its main character was Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. The new play was named in the French manner – Jamais (Never). Practical joker Anton Chekhov gave such a strange nickname to one of his female friends. The real name of this beautiful woman was Lydia Stakhieva Mizinova. For the whole world reading public she is known as Lika.

In 2015 Melikhovo, theatre “Chekhov Studio” gave us a gift to the 120th anniversary of the great play The Seagull: V. Baycher and theatre designer V. Anshon staged a new performance in the open air. They called it - Chekhov. The Seagull. This is a very specific and unusual theatrical production. According to their vision: the action of the play directed by Konstantin Treplev (one of the main characters of Chekhov’s play), the "World-Soul " show, takes place on a raft, floating on the pond "Aquarium". Nina Zarechnaya is dressed in a white robe of a strange space alien who swims towards stunned inhabitants of Sorin’s estate, escorted by spooky creatures with "red eyes of the devil." The structure of the play features different time lines that are intertwined with each other. And if in the first part of the performance, a peaceful 19th-century manor house is visited by a space alien in a spacesuit, the final act brings you back to the 21st century.

In 2016 Tatiana Voronina together with her wonderful fellow-thinkers and actors of "Chekhov Studio" staged performance The Bench on the basis of the famous play by Alexander Gelman. Those people, who know this play, would be surprised when they come and see this production here in Melikhovo. You will not find park, bench and sentiments on the stage of a log house. The audience will be guesting at the STAND-UP café. There you will witness how swinging and vivid master and hostess are in arguing with each other in public, telling barefaced lies into microphones with modern music as a background.

In the summer of 2016 "Chekhov Studio" showed another amazing performance. Kirill Loskutov staged Polite people/People with good manners, based on early stories by A. P. Chekhov, where main characters are foreigners.

In April 2017 theater "Chekhov Studio" gave us a new production which was not staged on the basis of Chekhov's works. It's called Roulettenburg, with Vladimir Baycher as a director. This play is a theatre version of the novel The Gambler by Fyodor M. Dostoevsky. It is known that this great Russian writer had great passion for gambling in his soul. Roulettenburg describes confrontation between the two passions raged in the soul the teacher of Alexei Ivanovich, the main character of the novel. His life, looks like some mysterious and feverous dream, a tight tangle of love and hate, betrayal and glitter of gold, burning passion for gambling and a spell power of beautiful women!