“Three Sisters” is USD theater department’s latest production, exploring themes of romance, struggle and hope.
The story is set in early-1900s Russia, and centers around three sisters living in a provincial town who are generally dissatisfied with their lives, but come to a sense of peace by the end of the play.
Tim Pyles, assistant professor of acting and the play’s director, said he chose “Three Sisters” because Anton Chekhov is one of the “all-time great playwrights.”
“He’s brilliant and he’s hugely influential in the history of theater and literature,” Pyles said. “It’s a great opportunity for the campus to see something by him.”
A provincial town
Katie Meirose, a junior theater major who plays the role of Masha in the play, said the play is about the three Prozorov sisters. The story focuses on their lives after they’ve moved from Moscow to a provincial town.
“They are stuck in this provincial town and they dream of going to Moscow,” Meirose said. “However, life kind of gets in the way of that.”
Meirose said one of her favorite lines from the play is “happy people don’t notice whether it’s summer or winter.”
Pyles said the dissatisfaction the sisters feel with their provincial life relates to life in a smaller town like Vermillion, and people should find ways to make their lives meaningful if they feel dissatisfied.
“They believe that if they could just move and go to the big city (Moscow) that everything would be better, like how we sometimes feel like if I could just get out of Vermillion, I won’t be in this funk,” he said. “That’s not really true. Life doesn’t fix itself just because you move or because you alter your circumstances in superficial ways.”
Rachel Smith, a junior theater major who plays Olga, said the challenge with this show was portraying sad characters.
“We didn’t want it to be a sad show, so all of our characters are sad, but it’s like we’re trying to fight our sadness and be happy,” Smith said. “My character Olga is working in a job that she hates, and she’s sad because she’s not married and no one ever wanted her. I think all of us find a weird sort of peace at the end of the show.”
Alex Newcomb-Weiland, a junior theater major who portrays Irina in the play, said one of her favorite moments in the play is the “beautiful contrast” at the end.
“At the end, there’s this huge emotional hug with (the sisters) and we’re sobbing, but then there’s this beautiful music happening,” she said. “It kind of shows you that life, though it can be sad, there are happy moments.”
Meirose said that although the ending to the play is sad, there’s a sense of hope to it.
“These horrible things can happen, but you can still lead a full life,” she said.
Pyles said there are a lot of philosophical as well as romantic scenes in the play.
“There’s some lovely romantic scenes, and they’re Russian, so they philosophize a lot,” he said. “It’s about people trying to figure out how to find a way to feel okay about your life, and if your life isn’t everything that you wish it were.”
Pyles said another reason he chose “Three Sisters” is for the women in the theater department.
“It has three fantastic roles for women, and we have a lot of terrific female actresses in the department right now,” he said. “Frankly I think we need more of that. We have enough of a male focus in our society, we’re still fairly male-centric in our storytelling, so I think it’s very important to tell stories that highlight women and tell their stories.”
Smith said it was nice to have a play where the women didn’t have to “gender bend” and play traditionally male roles.
“We can just play women and be feminine and beautiful, but also be powerful and strong,” she said. “It’s a relevant (story). It’s a beautiful feminist story, it’s a very exciting, funny, human story that I think anyone can relate to.”
Meirose said that she, Smith and Newcomb-Weiland are friends in real life, and said it’s been a “marvelous experience” working with them.
“That makes it a lot easier because we’re able to play off of each other in a lot more natural way,” Meirose said. “It’s fun having three women leads. It doesn’t happen very often, frankly, it just doesn’t.”
Pyles said he’s had a great time working with the cast.
“They’re really working hard, dedicated, invested in trying to figure out who these characters are and what the relationships between them are,” he said. “They ask a lot of questions, and they’re passionate about (the story).”
“Three Sisters” will run from Feb. 15-18 in the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre.