Arts & Life, Theatre

Chekhov it out

Despite the wicked weather, a funny thing happened over the last few weeks in Winnipeg: we went Into The Woods, met some Assassins, fell into some Follies and generally went bananas over SondheimFest. Indeed, the 2013 edition of the annual Master Playwright Festival sold out a whole whack of shows, including the entire run of District Theatre Collective’s Into The Woods.

On Tuesday, with that successful festival afterglow still fresh, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre announced that the 2014 edition of the festival would feature works by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. The author, who died in 1904, is best known for turn-of-the-century classics including Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. For its contribution, the RMTC will spearhead a production of Chekhov’s iconic play The Seagull.

RMTC director Steven Schipper said the choice was fitting: Chekhov was a favourite of MTC founder John Hirsch. “Hirsch was almost evangelical about Chekhov,” Schipper said in a statement, noting that Hirsch used to produce a Chekhov play almost every year during his tenure at MTC between 1958 and 1965. “When Hirsch left, Chekhov largely faded from our city’s stages, but zone41 theatre and Theatre Projects Manitoba have sparked a welcome resurgence. They’ve reminded us why Chekhov is important for Winnipeggers. His characters share our flat, northern geography, and the way we’re torn between the urban and the rural.”

ChekhovFest will be the 14th edition of the Master Playwright Festival, which launched in 2001 with an ode to Samuel Beckett.  Since then, the festivals have drawn about 10,000 attendees each year to performances and lectures.