Three actors in a scene from "The Cherry Orchard"

The Cherry Orchard

Award-Winning Cast and Crew Bring ‘Cherry Orchard’ to Hartung Stage

by Kelly O'Neill               - Watch The Promotional Video -

Good theatre depends greatly on collaboration and with the University of Idaho Department of Theatre Arts production of The Cherry Orchard, the adage “it takes a village” is very applicable.

As directed by Theatre Arts professor, Robert Caisley, a variety of UI departments have involvement with the classic play by Anton Chekhov. From the College of Art and Architecture to the History Department , from Movement Sciences to graphic design, all have touched the production in some way.

Design Collaboration – Theatre Works With Art & Architecture

MFA candidate Courtney Smith, designed The Cherry Orchard set and worked with Jay Pengilly from the College of Art and Architecture to create the 75 foot decorative proscenium that frames the stage. The intricate details required high-precision power tools from the Technical Design Studio to cut the design.

An award-winning designer, Courtney says a great deal of research went into developing the look and feel of The Cherry Orchard. He studied many types of Russian estates, both interiors and exteriors, to reflect the appropriate time period. The decorative proscenium was inspired by a Russian window frame from the late 1800s. The floor is reminiscent of estate flooring used by the Russian aristocracy.

Courtney and the director bounced a lot of ideas off each other in developing the ambiance of the elegant and surreal set. “Collaboration is absolutely necessary,” Courtney says. “It brings out new ideas and helps contribute to the best production possible,” he says.

History Professor Provides Context for Performers

To understand the social and economic turmoil that propels the The Cherry Orchard, Professor Caisley invited History Professor Richard Spence to attend an early rehearsal meeting. “He was incredibly informative,” says Emily Nash, who plays the character of Lyubov.

“It is a daunting task - especially when doing something historical and when you only have a condensed six-week rehearsal period - to learn about how people lived, their culture and society, what was changing and why,” she explains.

“It was a huge asset to have a resource like Professor Spence, who has spent years researching Russian history, to share his knowledge with us,” she says.

“It really brought to life how politically charged this time was,” says Jacque Peres, stage manager for The Cherry Orchard. “I knew about the history and cultural events surrounding this era, but I was unaware or didn’t have a clear sense of who the people were and how they lived during this time period,” she says.

Cory Williamson plays Lopakhin, a peasant who aspires to upward mobility, and agrees. “It was helpful in understanding my role,” he says. He also learned more about Chekhov, which is a good thing because Chekhov can be intimidating, he admits. “There are a lot of preconceived notions that you have to play a part a certain way,” he says. Ultimately, you have to put your trust in the text. “Everything you need is in the text,” he says.

The Challenge and Rewards of Chekhov

“Chekhov was ahead of his time,” Emily says. His plays exemplify what it means to be human. His characters are complex, complicated, and full of depth and he portrays them with such honest reality that you can’t help but identify with them.

Emily is bittersweet in anticipating The Cherry Orchard – it will be her final performance on the Hartung stage as she graduates in May with her MFA.

“Lyubov is one of the most challenging and sought-after characters to play in all of dramatic literature,” Emily says. “She is a lovely, charming, beacon of hope, but also incredibly tragic. She is the cause of her own demise; she can’t get out of her own way, not unlike many of us today. This role has truly been one of the greatest highlights of my career.”

Other University of Idaho programs and departments played a role in The Cherry Orchard, including choreography provided by Crystal Bain, a Movement Sciences graduate and design of the poster and program by Kaitlyn Perkins, a senior student in graphic design.

The Cherry Orchard runs April 24-26 and May 1-3 at 7:30 p.m. and April 27 and May 4 at 2 p.m. at the Hartung Theater on the University of Idaho campus.

Ticket Information
Tickets for The Cherry Orchard are $10 for the general public; $8 for UI faculty, staff and seniors; and free for UI and WSU students with ID. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the UI Kibbie Dome Ticket Office, or by calling 208-885-7212. Tickets will also be for sale at the door on the evenings of the event.