Three Sisters Explores Life and Yearning for a Purpose

Posted on May 4th, 2021 by

Annie Lind '23 (left) and Jordan Johnson '21 (right) play two of the titular Three Sisters.

The Department of Theatre and Dance at Gustavus Adolphus College presents Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, a new version by Sarah Ruhl. Shot as a filmed stage production, the production will be available to stream May 8 at 7 p.m. and May 9 at 3 p.m.

A classic realism drama, Three Sisters follows an aristocratic family in Russia who is struggling to figure out how they fit in the changing world, and are looking for something more than what they have. “The rest of the show really is like these snapshots of moments of ‘I want to get there,’ ‘we’re getting there,’ ‘we’re almost there,’ ‘we’re never going to get there,’ and dealing with those moments of life: of pain, heartbreak, love, happiness, and things not going your way,” Jordan Johnson ’21 says.

The sisters are constantly wishing to return “to Moscow” where they lived as children, but never do. “They’re stuck between that past and an uncertain future where they don’t see how they can get back any of the happiness that they experience as kids,” director Amy Seham explains.

This production is Johnson’s honors project, and she plays Olga, the oldest of the three sisters. “When I first read the script years ago, I was not engaged with Olga. I thought she was kind of boring,” she explains. However, the more she examined the play in various classes throughout the years, the more Johnson began picking up on what made Olga a complicated character. “She keeps trying to contain her emotions, keeps wanting to control herself as much as she can, knowing that the other two sisters in her life are so passionate and emotional that she needs to be that rock,” she says.

For the first two weeks of rehearsal, the cast and crew met online to work on lines and understand the historical context of the piece. Then, in-person blocking rehearsals began, along with weekly “acting for the camera” workshops with New York-based actor Robert Galinsky through the end of February. Throughout March, the team would rehearse Monday through Friday, and then film an act of the play over the weekend. Alumnus Nick Campbell ’18 returned as the videographer for this production. Currently, the production is in the editing stage.

This production was a unique undertaking for everyone involved. “I appreciated the love and the commitment and the willingness to do this kind of thing,” Johnson says. “No matter how long the hours were, no matter how much we had to do, everyone I was working with was so invested, so willing to give that time and to give their all into the show,” she says.

Johnson says she’s excited to see how the subtext of the play is made more visible in this medium. “So often, when a character has a line that’s maybe throwing shade or a backhanded compliment or a comment about someone else, you don’t notice always when you’re in the audience that the other character hears and reacts to it. And here with film, you can get the reactions of the other character, so I’m excited to see how much of the story comes out more when you have those focuses of the camera,” she says. 

Three Sisters will be available to view online May 8 at 7 p.m. and May 9 at 3 p.m. The link will be available on the Gustavus theatre and dance website. No tickets will be required, but viewers are encouraged to donate to the department.


Comments are closed.