TREMONT — A festival of the works of Anton Chekhov will be produced by the Barn Arts Collective from Tuesday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 1.
The festival grew out of the Barn Arts Chekhov Club, a community group that has been meeting regularly for the last three years to read, discuss and perform the works of Chekhov, a playwright and short-story writer, who lived and worked in Russia at the turn of the 20th century.
According to Barn Arts Founding Artistic Director Andrew Simon, the idea for a festival expanded through conversations with artists visiting Mount Desert Island for development residencies, which the Barn Arts Collective hosts throughout the summer and fall. “Chekhov’s work has had a powerful impact on me since I discovered his plays when I was 19,” said Simon. “Through discussions in Chekhov Club, I saw that his themes and characters are universal, and the more I talked to visiting artists, the more I learned about ideas for productions of Chekhov’s work from artists around the country.”
While Chekhov is recognized as a master playwright and his work is produced with some regularity on Broadway and at regional theaters, there is no major festival in the U.S. that features and celebrates his work on this scale. “As far as we can tell, this is the biggest Chekhov Festival in the country,” said Simon, who reached out to artists that were interested in returning to MDI to be a part of the festival.
The Chekhov Festival will feature three full productions, a film festival and a community event at the Southwest Harbor Public Library that the Barn Arts artistic directors hope will be the largest Chekhov Club to date. The event at the library on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 5:30 p.m. will kick off the festival by inviting the public to take part in Chekhov Club, with an informal talk introducing Chekhov and his work to begin the evening, followed by drinks and refreshments, before giving the public an opportunity to sit at the table together and read Chekhov’s words aloud.
“Chekhov Club gives everyone the opportunity to discover Chekhov’s work in their own voice,” said Simon. “There is no experience necessary, and it’s a very supportive environment – it gives participants the chance to connect with Chekhov’s characters firsthand.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the Barn Arts will present a film festival at the Barn featuring three short films adapted from Chekhov’s short stories. All of the films are produced and performed by local artists. The film festival will be followed by a performance of “The Hummm,” a new adaptation of Chekhov’s play “Three Sisters,” created by a group of artists based in New York who developed the piece at the American Repertory Theatre and the Moscow Art Theatre.
The Chekhov Festival also will feature a full production of “Three Sisters” in a new, modern adaptation by Matthew Minnicino, whose play “Some Pictures of the Floating World,” played to packed houses in the Barn during the summer.
The festival will conclude with performances of “The Seagull,” Chekhov’s first masterpiece, presented in an in-process production and performed by a cast of local actors in a translation created by the cast.
Simon said that he hopes that the Chekhov Festival will become an annual or biannual event. “I’m interested to see how audiences respond to this work,” he said. “I think Chekhov’s work shows us what it means to be human – and it does this with beauty and tragedy and love and humor. I hope that people are able to come to this festival and find something of themselves in these stories and in these characters.”
All events are at the Barn unless otherwise noted. Visit barnartscollective.com for a complete schedule. Admission for all events in the festival is by donation. Reservations are available online at barnartscollective.com.
The Barn is at 130 Tremont Road in Bass Harbor. The Southwest Harbor Public Library is at 38 Main St. in Southwest Harbor.