NEW ULM - The cast of the special local production of Anton Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard" is having a blast overcoming minor challenges to create a completely unique theater production.
The play was pulled together by the director, New Ulm-born Luverne Seifert, who is a professional actor and director in the Twin Cities and head of the B.A. Theatre Performance program at the University of Minnesota. He said he organized the play because he wanted to bring a professional play to his hometown, along with being able to perform the play in an actual house.
The play is being presented live in the historic Lind House on four consecutive days. Its run began Thursday and concludes Sunday. All performances are sold out.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
The first act of the ‘The Cherry Orchard’ was held on the front porch of the historic Lind House on Thursday evening. Actors used the audience to represent a crowd of neighbors greeting them.
On the left, (left to right) Steve Johnson, Luverne Seifert and Sarah Myers. On the porch, Anna Surprenant, Darcy Engen, Nathan Keepers, Sarah Agnew and members of the Sleepy Eye Concertina Club.
The cast consists of six professional actors from the Twin Cities area, along with four local high school and community actors. The professional actors have previously performed on stages like the Guthrie, the Jungle Theater and the Theatre de la Jeune Lune.
"The local actors have been great. We couldn't have got [this play] done without them," said Seifert, "They have knowledge of where we can get resources that we don't have. When we needed blankets, they just brought some from home."
Seifert said the challenge of working in a house was the confined amount of space that the actors and the audience had to maneuver in.
"But, the trade off is the charm of the house itself. We get to use the architecture. [Actors] are able to run into the house, walk through doorways or go up stairs," said Seifert, "It gives you the feeling like you are in the actual house of the characters."
He said the house also allows for an unique form of audience interaction.
The play moves in and out of the house from scene to scene, and the audience moves along with the play. The play itself begins outside of the Lind House, with a character returning home. The watching audience is utilized to represent a crowd of neighbors welcoming the character back. The actors even addressed their dialogue to the audience.
Later, in the third act, the audience is encouraged to dance when music, performed by the Concertina Club, is played for the play's party scene.
"It's very interactive. We use the audience like an actor in a way," said Seifert.
He said that response from the community has been tremendous.
"We've sold our runs for all the nights," said Seifert, "We've received all kinds of support for the play. We just wish we had more room for people to come and see it."
The production is made possible by an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. August Schell Brewing Company is also sponsoring the event.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)