2008 -- *

"Funeral"? No, "Death"... Preshow -- Polka. Darkness, coughing.

"Second Chekhov" (immortal) -- Chekhov vs. Anton, who is dying.

Потом повторил для студента или для меня по-русски: "Я умираю". [And than he repeted for the student or fo me (Olga) in Russian: "I am dying."]

6 French "mini-scenes": transitions (Chekhov-Ben walks down).

[ * ] His death is first -- then "Chekhov" describes his own death, in contrast with Olga's romantic version.

[ On the stage -- farces? "Silent scenes"? The characters are waiting, frozen. ]

-- To translate and to include?

[ Chekhov's Letters ]

Он постоянно был один на один с болезнью. В письме Суворину сообщал: "Я на днях едва не упал, и мне минуту казалось, что я умираю. Быстро иду к террасе, на которой сидят гости, стараюсь улыбаться, не подать вида, что жизнь моя обрывается". И даже в такой критический момент приписка, весьма характерная для Чехова: "Как-то неловко падать и умирать при чужих".

Долго ждали речей, даже когда гроб был уже засыпан. Но передали, что покойным было выражено желание, чтоб над его могилой не было речей. Двое-трое ораторов из необозримо огромной толпы сказали заурядные слова, досадно нарушившие красноречивое молчание, которое было так уместно над свежей могилой грустного певца сумеречной эпохи.
[ Funeral description ]

Chekhov: "Коль принадлежишь к племени людей, то все равно рано или поздно будешь страдать и умрешь, а раз так, значит, надо прожить до конца своего тихо, не рвать занавес в клочья, не вынуждать близких к страданию".

HE (Anton): "Жить для того, чтобы умереть, вообще незабавно, но жить, зная, что умрешь преждевременно, - уже совсем глупо". To live in order todie isn't funny, but to live knowing that die before your time -- this is simply stupid. (about himself).

August 19, 1904 At last I am able to write to you, Anton, my dear, my sweet, so near and yet so far! I don't know where you are now. I've been waiting a long time for the day when I could write to you. Today, I went to Moscow and visited your grave ... How splendid it is, if you only knew. After the arid south everything here seems so lush, so scented, so fragrant, it smells of earth and fresh grass, the trees make such a gentle sound. I can't believe you are not among the living! I need desperately to write to you, to tell you everything I have been through since your final illness and that moment when your heart stopped beating, your poor, sick, worn-out heart. Now that I am actually writing to you, it seems strange but I have a quite irrational desire to do so. And as I write to you, I feel you are alive, out there somewhere, waiting for a letter. Dearest darling, my sweet love, let me speak some words of tenderness, let me stroke your soft, silky hair and look into your dear, shining, loving eyes. If only I knew whether you felt you were going to die. I think you did, vaguely perhaps, but you did .... [ end of 1? ]

August 20 1904 Darling. I have just come back from seeing your brother, Ivan, I upset him by telling him about your last days but I felt it was good for him, even if it was distressing. And I could talk about everything, about you for ever, about Badenweiler, about something great, grand that occurred in that rich, emerald-green town in the Black Forest. Do you remember how we loved our carriage rides, our 'Rundreise', as we called them? You were so affectionate, I understood you so well at times like that. Do you remember how you would discreetly take my hand and squeeze if, and when I asked if you were all right, you would say nothing, just nod and give me a smile for an answer With what reverence I sometimes kissed your hand! You would hold my hand for a long time and so we drove through a fragrant pine wood. Your favourite spot was a lush, green glade, filled with sunlight. A stream babbled splendidly along a ditch and you kept telling the driver to drive more quietly, taking delight in a large expanse of fruit trees that stood in the open and weren't fenced in, and no one took or stole a single cherry or pear. You recalled our own, poor Russia... Do you remember the charming mill, so low it was completely hidden in the thick greenery and only the water sparkled on the wheel? How you liked the comfortable, clean villages and little gardens with the regulation rows of white lilies, rose bushes and kitchen gardens! And with what pain you said: Dearest, when will our peasant farmers live in little houses like these! Dearest, dearest one, where are you now ? ...

Ich sterbe

"I'm dying" -- one-act I AM DEAD

HE: Chekhov -- writer and a man?.. (Two actors) = Anton and Chekhov, dying man and his soul.

SHE: Olga -- actress, wife, woman

Chekhov's last hours. July 14, 1904. Germany

Small writing table, two chairs, one bed, books, papers. He is writing, She is reading.

1. Death

Dark. Above the stage. He is caughing.

SHE: What are you thinking about? You know, I never sure that you are here. You are thinking, thinking all the time...

HE: Nothing. Some nonsense.

SHE (his book in her hands): Did you write it about me?

HE: What dear?

SHE: This part... (reads) "What truth? You see where truth is, and where untruth is, but I seem to have lost my sight and see nothing. You boldly settle all important questions, but tell me, dear, isn't it because you're young, because you haven't had time to suffer till you settled a single one of your questions? You boldly look forward, isn't it because you cannot foresee or expect anything terrible, because so far life has been hidden from your young eyes? You are bolder, more honest, deeper than we are, but think only, be just a little magnanimous, and have mercy on me. I was born here, my father and mother lived here, my grandfather too, I love this house. I couldn't understand my life without that cherry orchard, and if it really must be sold, sell me with it! [Embraces TROFIMOV, kisses his forehead]. My son was drowned here. ... [Weeps] Have pity on me, good, kind man.

HE: For you, not about you.

SHE: It's me. I know.

HE: Do you hear it?

SHE: No. [Polka is out]

HE II CHEKHOV [ downstage right, grave ]: ... unexpectedly, a heatwave struck southern Europe - the worst weather for a man suffering from advanced tuberculosis. On July 12, Chekhov had the first of two heart attacks but still appeared to rally, then on the evening of July 14 events began to move rapidly.

SHE: (as Olga). Yes, but it ought to be said differently, differently. . . . (as Lubov) [Takes another handkerchief, a telegram falls on the floor] I'm so sick at heart to-day, you can't imagine. Here it's so noisy, my soul shakes at every sound. I shake all over, and I can't go away by myself, I'm afraid of the silence. Don't judge me harshly...

Chekhov II: No one understood as clearly and finely as Anton Chekhov, the tragedy of life's trivialities, no one before him showed men with such merciless truth the terrible and shameful picture of their life in the dim chaos of bourgeois every-day existence. His enemy was banality; he fought it all his life long; he ridiculed it, drawing it with a pointed and unimpassioned pen, finding the mustiness of banality even where at the first glance everything seemed to be arranged very nicely, comfortably, and even brilliantly--and banality revenged itself upon him by a nasty prank, for it saw that his corpse, the corpse of a poet, was put into a railway truck "For the Conveyance of Oysters."

That dirty green railway truck seems to me precisely the great, triumphant laugh of banality over its tired enemy; and all the "Recollections" in the gutter press are hypocritical sorrow, behind which I feel the cold and smelly breath of banality, secretly rejoicing over the death of its enemy.[ ** ] [ Chekhov (writer) and Anton (man) ]

[Picking up telegram]


[LUBOV] This telegram's from Paris. I get one every day. Yesterday and today. That wild man is ill again, he's bad again. . . . He begs for forgiveness, and implores me to come, and I really ought to go to Paris to be near him. You look severe, Peter, but what can I do, my dear, what can I do; he's ill, he's alone, unhappy, and who's to look after him, who's to keep him away from his errors, to give him his medicine punctually? And why should I conceal it and say nothing about it; I love him, that's plain, I love him, I love him. . . . That love is a stone round my neck; I'm going with it to the bottom, but I love that stone and can't live without it. [Squeezes TROFIMOV'S hand] Don't think badly of me, Peter, don't say anything to me, don't say . . .

HE (Chekhov): Chekhov "was breathing with difficulty, and the doctor began to give him the oxygen". After a few minutes Dr. Schwoerer whispered to Rabeneck to go downstairs to the hall porter and get a bottle of champagne and a glass. As medical etiquette dictated when all hope was gone, one doctor offered champagne to the other. Dr. Schwoerer poured out an almost full glass, and… Chekhov took the glass of champagne with pleasure and, with his own particular and attractive smile, said: "I haven't drunk champagne in a long time!" He drained the glass in one valiant gulp. The doctor took the empty glass from him and gave it to me… At that very moment, as I was putting the glass on the table, a strange sound seemed to come from Chekhov's throat, something rather like the noise a water-tap makes when air gets into it, and there was a gurgling sound.

SHE [ as LUBOV, messed up monologue ]: Oh, my sins. ... I've always scattered money about without holding myself in, like a madwoman, and I married a man who made nothing but debts. My husband died of champagne--he drank terribly--and to my misfortune, I fell in love with another man and went off with him, and just at that time--it was my first punishment, a blow that hit me right on the head--here, in the river ... my boy was drowned, and I went away, quite away, never to return, never to see this river again... I shut my eyes and ran without thinking, but he ran after me ... without pity, without respect. I bought a villa near Mentone because he fell ill there, and for three years I knew no rest either by day or night; the sick man wore me out, and my soul dried up. And last year, when they had sold the villa to pay my debts, I went away to Paris, and there he robbed me of all I had and threw me over and went off with another woman. I tried to poison myself.... It was so silly, so shameful. ... And suddenly I longed to be back in Russia, my own land, with my little girl. ... [Wipes her tears] Lord, Lord be merciful to me, forgive me my sins! Punish me no more! [Takes a telegram out of her pocket] I had this today from Paris. ... He begs my forgiveness, he implores me to return. ... [Tears it up] Don't I hear music? HE: "Olga Leonardovna, my dear, the doctor says that Anton Pavlovich has passed away." [she listens.]

SHE: I am a seagull... I am a seagull...

HE (II): ... Chekhov believed that everyone who dies sees something that they cannot tell.

SHE: No, no, it's not that...

HE (II): the next night, when the body was removed to the local chapel under cover of darkness, so as not to upset the other guests. Instead of a stretcher, a laundry basket was brought, Rabeneck wrote, "but, to our astonishment, the basket was not, in spite of its length, long enough for the body to lie flat, and Chekhov had to be put in it in a half-sitting position… I walked behind the men carrying the body. Light and shade from the burning torches flickered and leaped over the dead man's face, and at times it seemed to me as if Chekhov was scarcely perceptibly smiling at the fact that, by decreeing that his body should be carried in a laundry basket, Fate had linked him with humour even in death."

[ sounds of polka and the farces? Is Popova (Bear) is on stage already? When does she come? How? ]

* Transition to BEAR (Chekhov as Luka)

[ .... ]

"Popova-Smirnov Kiss" -- Chekhov (II) comes to take them off stage.

2. Marriage

Anton and Olga (summer dresses), letters "Long Distance Marriage" (the time of the Moscow Art Theatre shows).

2 *

voices (characters):

SHE: [as OLGA.] Today it's warm, we can even have the windows open - but the birch trees are still not in leaf. Father was given command of a brigade and left Moscow with us eleven years ago. And I remember it all distinctly, at the beginning of May, just at this time, in Moscow already everything is in flower, it's warm, everything is flooded with sunlight. Eleven years have gone by, but I remember everything there, as if we left Moscow yesterday. Good God! This morning I woke up and I saw a blaze of colour, I saw the spring, and gladness bubbled up inside my heart, and I desperately wanted to be where I came from, in my native land.

SHE: [ as MASHA ]. I want to confess my sins, dear sisters. My soul is yearning. I'm going to confess to you and never again to anyone... I'll tell you this minute [softly]. It's my secret, but you must know everything.... I can't be silent... [a pause]. I'm in love, I'm in love... I love that man.... You have just seen him... Well, I may as well say it. I love Vershinin.


SHE: [ as MASHA ]. Oh, sister, you are silly. I love him -- so that's my fate. It means that that's my lot... And he loves me... It's all terrifying. Yes? Is it wrong? [Takes IRINA by the hand and draws her to herself] Oh, my darling... How are we going to live our lives, what will become of us?.. When you read a novel it all seems trite and obvious, but when you're in love yourself you see that no one knows anything and we all have to settle things for ourselves... My darlings, my sisters... I've confessed it to you, now I'll hold my tongue... I'll be like Gogol's madman... silence... silence...

* Before the intermission (* He is coughing, blood.) HE: The demand is made that the hero and heroine should be dramatically effective. But after all, in real life people don't spend every minute shooting each other, hanging themselves and making confessions of love. They don't spend all their time saying clever things. They're more occupied with eating, drinking, flirting and talking stupidities - and these are the things which ought to be shown on the stage. A play should be written in which people arrive, go away, have dinner, talk about the weather and play cards. Life must be exactly as it is. And people as they are - not on stilts.... Let everything on the stage be just as complicated, and at the same time just as simple as it is in life. People eat their dinner, just eat their dinner, and all the time their happiness is being established or their lives are being broken up.

After the Intermission: Act II.

3. Wedding

* Transition to Wedding.

HE: My name in Anton Chekhov and I was born on the 17th of JAn. 1860. My education began at the Greek school, after which I attended the Taganrog Boys' school. In 1879 I entered the medical school of Moscow University. During my first year at the university I was already having rhings printed in the weekly newspapers and magazines, and by the early eighties these literary pursuites had assumed a regular, professional character. I also written plays for theatre. Like this little joke "Wedding"... And I was married myself in 1901 to Olga Knipper, the actress of Moscow Art Theatre...

Both are on stage as Husband and Wife for the "Wedding" (the show starts). He leaves.


Dances. Polka. HE reenters.

* Transition to Tobacco

4. Love

Finale [ ps notes ]

[ ** ] GORKY's recollections

[ draft of the scene from filmplus.org/plays/smallchekhov.html ? ]