Chekhov has always scared me a bit. Maybe it's all those names, or maybe it's the depth of emotion or maybe it's because the moments are not easily defined. For all these reasons I felt scared and excited as I re-read The Seagull, this time filtered through Tom Stoppard's brilliant mind. For a play that is so much about writing and about theatre I can't help but wonder what went through Stoppard's mind when he was working on this section:
When you write something, you must have a clearly defined thought. You have to know why you're writing. Otherwise - if you set off along that enchanted path without a definite goal in mind - you'll lose your way, and your talent will turn on itself and destroy you.Inevitably this thought has some tinge of Stoppard's own feelings, since he is, after all, translating Chekhov's original intent .. but Stoppard chose these specific words for a reason. What a morbidly beautiful image to have your talent turn on itself and destroy you. As I read the play this time, I was most captivated by Trigorin and his big monologue about his "marvellous life." He says, about writing:
I'm never left in peace, and it's as if I'm devouring my own life - to make the honey for the readers out there, I'm gathering up the pollen from my best flowers, breaking off the flowers themselves, trampling on their roots.Is it our nature as artists (or as humans?) that we are never quite satisfied? He has certainly reached some level of success, and yet he is unable to appreciate it. He is constantly consumed by images and words and stories he should write and stories he IS writing.. it's the never-ending battle of a tortured soul. I connected with him through this speech. I don't claim to be as tortured as he, however, I feel at times that I go through life experiencing things so that I can re-experience them on stage.. attempting to remember things as they happen so I can make a mental note to infuse part of the feeling into a scene or character.. wondering if some great upset will create a darkness in me that can be useful down the road. Then I often feel guilty and try to just be in the moment of whatever I'm experiencing.
The last time I read this play was a number of years ago and I felt that I could appreciate it more now that some time has passed. I was serious about those names though.. if someone could explain the significance of why each character seems to have three or so names, I'd be forever grateful.
I mean, I have some money, but I'm an artist! - my outfits alone have simply ruined me.Friday Play-a-day: Ludlow Fair by Lanford Wilson