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 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. 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.