(via John Wyszniewski, Everyman Agency.)
Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation Co-Present Arlekin Players Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop
Interactive Online Theater Experience Starring Jessica Hecht with
Anna Baryshnikov, Darya Denisova, Jeffrey Hayenga, Melanie Moore,
Nael Nacer, Mark Nelson, and special guest Mikhail Baryshnikov
February 26, 2021 at 8PM – One Night Only
FEBRUARY 16, 2021 – New York, NY – Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation co-present an interactive new media experiment, adapted from Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, created by Boston’s award-winning Arlekin Players Theatre and their newly-established Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Performance Lab. The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop will debut online Friday, February 26, 2021 at 8PM ET as part of Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC)’s Digital Spring 2021 Season. Registration for this free event is required at BACNYC.ORG. This presentation is not open for review.
The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop is an experiment in development by Arlekin Players Theatre’s founder and director Igor Golyak, who has been a leading innovator of virtual theater since the start of the pandemic. His recent State vs. Natasha Banina was a Critic’s Pick in The New York Times by Maya Phillips who declared “The verdict is in: Zoom can, in fact, be an effective new stage for theater.” Golyak’s latest work fuses film, theater, and video game technology to create a new medium where viewers are able to interact with the performers. Drawing from the original text of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, scenes from the play, and recordings of Chekhov’s letters and dreams, the online event accesses Chekhov’s desktop computer, where viewers discover six of his classic characters living in a virtual space, searching for happiness.
The cast comprises a cadre of well-known stage, television, and film actors including Tony-Nominee Jessica Hecht, who performs the iconic role of Ranevskaya. Hecht says, “I have been longing to explore The Cherry Orchard with Igor and our company in a way that gives us the most intimate and relatable portrait of a family in crisis. I believe we can create something raw and modern, without losing an authenticity to Chekhov’s vision.”
The presentation also features other celebrated performers, including Anna Baryshnikov (Apple TV+’s Dickinson) as Varya; Arlekin’s Darya Denisova as Tramp; Jeffrey Hayenga (The Elephant Man) as Fiers; Melanie Moore (Finding Neverland, So You Think You Can Dance) as Anya; Mark Nelson (Angels in America, The Invention of Love) as Gaev; and acclaimed Boston-based actor Nael Nacer as Lopakhin. BAC’s Founder and Artistic Director Mikhail Baryshnikov makes a special appearance in the role of Anton Chekhov. The work was developed and filmed, in part, at BAC in January with strict adherence to COVID health and safety protocols.
This project is the first phase of a larger New Media Cherry Orchard Project that Arlekin plans to develop into a hybrid production featuring new media, online, and live elements, with aspirations for a New York run in the 2021-22 season. “The Post-pandemic theater has to reexamine and reimagine itself. Through this experiment we are finding out how humankind can find each other in the virtual while continuing to treasure the in-person encounter, which makes for a new kind of site-specific theater,” says Golyak. “And I find myself in constant dialogue with The Cherry Orchard—during a time of loss and recovery, it helps us explore connection, transition, loss, and the human yearning for happiness.”
An international team of designers, new software usage, and technical engineers has collaborated with Golyak both virtually and onsite in Arlekin’s new Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Performance Lab in Needham, MA for several months to create the functionality and online environment for this project, which includes software support from Aximmetry Technologies Ltd., the official software provider for Arlekin’s Zero Gravity Lab; a new platform called “The Soft Layer” from Will Brierly of Snowrunner Productions; and back-end/design work from Vladimir Gusev, Anna Fedorova, and Anton Nikolaev.
The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop marks the second collaboration for Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation and Baryshnikov Arts Center, who co-presented Arlekin’s State vs. Natasha Banina during BAC’s Digital Fall 2020 Season. The evening offers an immersive experience as Arlekin shares their new proof of concept, followed by a live talkback with members of the cast and creative team.
The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop, co-presented by Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation, is made possible with generous additional support from ArtsEmerson, Fooksman Family Foundation, ZiphyCare, BroadBand Collaborative, Meghan Coleman, Robin Hanley, and Aximmetry Technologies Ltd., the official software provider for Arlekin’s Zero Gravity Lab.
FULL PROGRAM CREDITS
The Baryshnikov Arts Center & Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation Co-present
Arlekin Players Theatre
The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop
Adapted from The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
Conceived and Directed by Igor Golyak
Produced by Igor Golyak, Arlekin Players and Sara Stackhouse, BroadBand Collaborative
Virtual Performance Technical Director: Vladimir Gusev
Game Engine & Interaction Design: Will Brierly, Snowrunner Productions
Live Production Technicians: Anton Nikolaev and Igor Golyak
Virtual Set & Environment Designer: Anna Fedorova
Web Developer: Anatoly Krivonos
Composer: Jakov Jakoulov
Assistant Director: Blair Cadden
Properties Assistant: Irina Vilenchik
Platform: The Soft Layer by Snowrunner Productions
Director of Photography: Guillermo Cameo
Associate Producer: Joshua A. Friedman
2nd Camera and Editor: Anton Nikolaev
Sound: Sebastian Holst
Gaffer: Sashank Sana
Assistant Editor: Anna Gruman
Production Assistant: Violet de Besche
Ranevskaya Jessica Hecht
Gaev Mark Nelson
Varya Anna Baryshnikov
Anya Melanie Moore
Lopakhin Nael Nacer
Fiers Jeffrey Hayenga
Tramp Darya Denisova
And Mikhail Baryshnikov as Anton Chekhov
Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) is the realization of a long-held vision by artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov who sought to build an arts center in Manhattan that would serve as a gathering place for artists from all disciplines. BAC’s opening in 2005 heralded the launch of this mission, establishing a thriving creative laboratory and performance space for artists from around the world. BAC’s activities encompass a robust residency program augmented by a range of professional services, including commissions of new work, as well as the presentation of performances by artists at varying stages of their careers. In tandem with its commitment to supporting artists, BAC is dedicated to building audiences for the arts by presenting contemporary, innovative work at affordable ticket prices. For more information visit bacnyc.org.
Cherry Orchard Festival (CherryOrchardFestival.org), a registered 501c) (3) arts organization, is a leading independent international arts organization with a solid reputation for presenting musical performances, theatrical productions, multidisciplinary performing and visual arts attractions by a stunning array of global artists to audiences in the US. Founded by executive producer Maria Shclover and artistic director Irina Shabshis in 2012, the festival has presented over 60 unique world class events, concerts, and theatrical performances to over 150,000 audience members across the US. The presentation of “Cherry Orchard” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center will be the second collaboration between the Festival and Arlekin Theatre, after the successful online run of The State Vs. Natasha Banina in 2020. The ongoing mission of the Cherry Orchard Festival is to introduce and promote global cultural activity and exchange of ideas, aiming to enlighten and engage audiences through educational entertainment programs and events. For more information about the festival, please visit cherryorchardfestival.org.
Arlekin Players Theatre, founded by Artistic Director Igor Golyak, was created in Boston in 2009 and has since toured to New York, Chicago, and Hartford, as well as to international festivals in Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, and Monaco. It’s production of State vs Natasha Banina has received world-wide acclaim, including the New York Times Critics’ Pick. Arlekin has received multiple awards for its work including four 2020 Elliot Norton Awards from the Boston Theater Critics Association for its recent productions of The Stone and The Seagull. Arlekin takes strong pride in their emphasis on self-identity; they are a company of immigrants performing works that play on the ideas of cross-culture, home, and traditions, challenging the idea of nationality, and finding common themes that unite us all. The company makes its home in Needham, MA. For more information, visit www.arlekinplayers.com.