Аннотация: According to memoirs of KNIPPER-CHEKHOV AND CHEKHOV describes the relationship between Chekhov and his wife.
Chekhov"s Last Love
by Ludmila Anselm
translated by Jim Clinton
Olga Leonardovna Knipper-Chekhova - famous old actress of the Moscow Art Theatre, about 85 years old,
Anna - student at the Moscow Art Theatre"s school.
Olga Leonardovna Knipper (may be the same actress, as the old) - young leading actress of the Moscow Art Theatre, about 30 years old
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov - famous Russian writer, about 40 years old.
Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko - director of the Moscow Art Theatre, about 45 years old.
Maria Pavlovna Chekhova, Masha - sister of Chekhov, about 35 years old.
Time - 1954(First scene), 1898 -1904 (all following scenes).
Place - Knipper"s dressing room in the Theatre and the space of the stage.
Note: During the reading of letters by Knipper and by Chekhov the actors read straight ahead to the audienc
The year is 1954. A dressing room in the theater. Knipper is restlessly sitting in an armchair waiting for her "Master Class" student. She suddenly stands, goes to a nearby coat rack, and casually starts to inspect each coat. Finding one to her satisfaction she nostalgically tries it on. There is a knock at the door. She quickly lays the coat aside.
Knipper: Come in.
(Anna opens the door; she enters trying to appear confident)
Anna: Olga Leonardova, I"m sorry I"m late.
Knipper: Good day Anna. What is the matter? You always have come right on time... but today ...
Anna: I"m sorry... I couldn"t... Olga Leonardovna, I have good news! Our Theater School will do, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov"s "The Cherry Orchard" as our final exam.
Knipper: Grand! Have you auditioned for a part yet?
Anna: The director, Vadim, asked me to play the heroine Ranevskaia.
Knipper: Here"s your chance... Anna, this is the grandest, most memorable stage entrance of any Chekhov heroine...
Anna: You have played Ranevskaia so many times...
Knipper: Ah, yes! I"ve played Ranevskaia my whole life... almost until I was 80 years old... Have you learned the part?
Anna: Yes... by heart.
Knipper: That"s a start... Describe Ranevskaia,s character, please.
Anna: She... is light headed.
Knipper: In your view... and?
Anna: She loves... life.
Anna: Flighty and fickle...
Knipper: In what sense "fickle"?
Anna: In sex... she is an elderly woman who wants everybody to love her.
Knipper: Just what age do you think she is?
Anna: Fifty-five I suppose.
Knipper: My dear, this is "elderly"? I"m 85 and I still want everybody to swoon over me.
Anna: I"m sorry! I didn"t mean to offend you...
Knipper (offended): I"m not offended. Anton wrote me that Ranevskayia is not hard to play... You only need to smile in your soul and move graciously...
Here... put on this coat, and walk as Ranevskaia"s entrance...
(Anna slips into the coat, and walks)
Knipper (harshly): You walk like a chambermaid... Don"t turn your back. Chin up... higher. Move slowly with dignity... back straight.
(Anna walks smoothly, slower, erect, and with her head slightly turned.)
Knipper(not pleasantly): You"re swimming? Be tense, like a horse before a race. Every vein bulging with just one desire...
Anna: The desire to gallop?
Knipper: To arouse men!
Anna: What men?
Knipper: All... and now smile, and throw your head back...
(Anna smiles and tries to walk as directed)
Knippper: Laugh infectiously so the whole audience will smile....
Anna: Olga Leonardova, I can"t....
Knipper: Anna! What"s the matter? ... Your mind doesn"t seem to be here...
Anna: Olga Leonardovna... I"ve just come from the doctor... I am pregnant!
I don"t know what to do...
Knipper: How far along are you?
Anna: Two months...
Knipper: Anna, of course you have to decide for your self... Two months gives some time yet...
(Business like)... We will continue to work. Focus... Concentrate.
Anna: Wait a second... I"ll try...
(Pause. Anna collects herself,)
Knipper: Anna, a great actress has to have a strong character... I performed in any situation, despite sickness... through pain...
The moment I walked on the stage, I listened for the breathing in the hall. They followed my every movement... my expression... my smile...
Anna: You were not just an accomplished actress, but also the wife of Chekhov. They envied you...
Knipper: Envied, because they couldn"t imagine how to be the wife of a famous writer and a leading actress too*******... Envied and hated too
Knipper: They thought I was a bad wife... My German Parentage was not a "plus"... They were jealous of their now famous country Doctor turned writer. Our romance existed largly in our letters between Moscow and Yalta... over 1000 miles... over 400 letters... I"ve kept them all...
******Anna: When did you first meet Anton Pavlich?**
******Knipper: Stanislavsky, Nemirovich, I and a group of actors were bound together in starting a new theater... We all were worried how to find new plays with new modern interesting ideas to attract intelligent audiences ...Chekhov was "a good bet". After a "Seagull" performance Chekhov and I met at a party at Chekhov"s dacha, and from this moment began our relationship... All Moscow followed the relationship between Chekhov and me... *******
(She pulls out a large messy stack of letters, pictures, and documents on thin paper from her desk).
Black out. End of scene.
The year is back in 1898. Knipper"s dressing room. A poster advertising "The Seagull" hangs on the wall.
( NOTE many following references to play titles in the script can be deleted provided there are "play announcement posters" on the wall)
Nemirovich: Olga, how hard I worked to get this "Seagull" for our theater! Checkov didn"t want us to put it on. What a weight for all us to carry...
Knipper: You think I"m not tense enough?
Nemirovich: I"m tense too, what a challenge...
Knipper: It"s a crazy play. They laughed at it in Saint Petersburg.
Nemirovich: The play got off on the wrong foot... It"s time to present it to the crem de la crem, Moscow; I know we can do it.
Knipper: We are just getting started... Why us?
Nemirovich: Now is the time to step up and risk it. We finally have respect here and Checkov is the most famous playwright in Russia. If our production is a success we will have saved Checkov"s reputation. He will forever be on our side. He will give us his plays first.
You know? ... He has an eye for you!
Knipper: The "Ivan The Terrible" performance last year? He wasn"t alone...
Nemirovich: His sister Masha was with him... Now she has come all the way up from Yalta just to talk with Stanislavski... I heard she pleaded and even cried trying to convince him to cancel our production.
Knipper: No! Not now!
Nemirovich: Yes! Stanislavski explained how we just can"t cancel now... He assured her everything would go well.
Knipper: If they start to laugh like in Petersburg I don"t know what I"ll do.
Nemirovich: It won"t happen. Anyhow you know, some times you have to ignore the audience...
(Masha rushes in)
Masha (breathless): Vladimir Ivanovich! I"m glad I found you.
Nemirovich: Maria Pavlovna! Masha, how nice to see you. Are you well? I hear you talked with Stanislavski...
Masha: But Anton is not well. I don"t think he could survive a second failure of "The Seagull".
Nemirovich (soothing): Masha, why should it fail? I"m sure everything will be fine. Here, drink some water... better now?
(Masha drinks water).
Masha: I don"t feel better... It was horrible. The audience started to laugh in the first act. Anton slipped out and wandered around the whole night. We didn"t find him until morning*************
**Olga? Do you play Arkadina?
Knipper: Yes, I... Don"t worry, Masha, everything will be fine. Don"t worry.
Nemirovich: Now stop worrying... Olga, you"re on in five minute... Masha we are invite you to see the play.**
(After some time Olga, Masha and Nemirovich return. They are tense. Olga has added some clothes indicating that she just played Akadina in the premier performance of "The Seagull".)
(for a performance you'd need to re structure this transition)
Knipper: Why is it so quiet? I need water.
(Masha pours a glass of water and gives it to Olga)
(The theater suddenly explodes with applause, and shouts of Bravo, Masha throws herself on Olga hugging her. Nemirovich hugs and kisses Olga)
Nemirovich (bowing to Olga): "I lay it at your feet"...
Knipper (acting): "This seagull? Whyt? A symbol?"...
Nemirovich: It could be a symbol of success for us! Thanks to Anton!
Masha: Thank God! It"s a success I"ll write Anton!
Nemirovich: Now, we should have no problem getting his next play "Uncle Vania"...
Masha: I doubt it...
Masha: Anton gave "Uncle Vania" to the Maly Theater a year ago... But he hasn"t agreed with some changes they want...
Nemirovich: I"ll telegraph him today ... we"ll promise not to change a thing!
Masha: You could try... Oh, Olga... I almost forget... Anton asked me to give you his greetings.
Knipper (jumps for joy): Greetings? Oh how nice! Give him my regards and congratulations! Masha, I"d like to be acquainted with your brother.
Masha: Of course! Of course! We will invite you to our dacha when he comes up from Yalta. I must write him how talented you are...
Knipper: Masha, I would like to get to know you better too.