Department of English

E379P students perform Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Littlefield House

Mon, April 17, 2017
E379P students perform Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Littlefield House
Nanny (Lily Pipkin) comforts Sonya (Stacey Jones) in the E379P performance of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in the historic Littlefield House.

The students of James Loehlin’s English 379P “Drama in Performance” class staged Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in a unique promenade performance at the historic Littlefield House on April 14.  The oldest building on campus and part of the National Register of Historic Places, the Littlefield House made an evocative setting for Chekhov’s tragicomedy.  

Chekhov wrote Uncle Vanya in the 1890s, exactly at the time the Littlefield House was being built.  The play follows the struggles of a Russian family on their country estate, and is set in a stately home very like the building on the UT campus. 

Each act of the play is set in a different location on the Voinitsky estate, so the action of the UT performance moved around the Littlefield House as the play progressed.  Act I took place outdoors on the front steps and veranda of the house; Act II moved to the hall and central stairway area; Act III was played in two connected drawing rooms, and Act IV occurred in an intimate sitting room.

The sixteen students in the course shared the play’s eight roles, with different actors taking on the central characters of each act.  Audience members followed the students from room to room, standing or sitting on the floor to observe the characters’ interactions, as though eavesdropping on the personal lives of a troubled family.

Elliott Turley, an English graduate student who attended the performance, commented, “I really enjoyed how the peripatetic staging opened up perspectives that a proscenium simply can't—I certainly was surprised (and delighted) when I had to accommodate a crying Yelena in my window spot.”  Another observer, Shakespeare at Winedale Outreach Coordinator Clayton Stromberger, noted, “The late-afternoon/early-evening light was stunning as it filtered in through the windows and mixed with the chandelier glow… [Uncle Vanya is] a great play and the ending was very moving.”

The E379P students will continue their explorations of modern drama in performance with a program of short plays by Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill and Suzan-Lori Parks on May 5 in Calhoun 100.  English Professor James Loehlin, the Director of UT’s Shakespeare at Winedale program, also explores works from other periods with his students using the Winedale method of teaching through performance that was pioneered at the University in the 1960s and 70s by James B. Ayres.

For more information contact James Loehlin at jnloehlin@austin.utexas.edu.

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