WEEKEND catches up with “The Wedding Reception” director Alex Mihail DRA ’12 after the show.
Q: What attracted you to “The Wedding Reception” as a piece of literature?
A: I had the chance to read the Schmidt edition of “The Wedding Reception” for the first time in English and I was amazed: it was very different from all the other translations that I read in a very strange and surreal way. I thought this would be perfect for an ensemble piece, where people could contribute rather than just passively acting.
Q: What steps did you take to make “The Wedding Reception” a more interactive experience?
A: We made sure to have the actors and the audience as close as possible so it felt like an authentic experience: they breathed the same air, drank the same drinks, and shared the same space so that everybody was a guest of our wedding reception.
Q: How did you reconcile the differences between the written play and the performance?
A: This is the heart of what we do at the Drama school — we try to make inanimate objects dramatic so that they seem real to the audience. I encountered this challenge many times while working during practices — one moment that comes to mind is the ending of the play, which was when I had to refer to the original play because I had five different versions. I found myself constantly asking, “What does Chekhov want from the ending? What are stage directions? The final lines?”
Q: You decided early on to expand on the piece because you knew it was a short. How did you know where to start? Where to insert impressionistic moments?
A: We made a conscious effort to avoid adding text but we did try to find a balance between Chekhov’s piece as he had written it and traditional Russian wedding customs. During our rehearsals, actors would just spontaneously suggest things so it very much became a collaborative experience organically.
Q: What do you expect the audience to get from this performance?
A: I want them to feel as though they were part of an experience. I want them to get more of a feeling than a specific idea — like being excited but nervous or happy but bewildered. This play is very much the story of the bride, a character that was at the center of the beginning of the play but became ignored as the play progresses. This conundrum gives rise to an issue that I feel is present even today: weddings can be very cruel. It’s almost like you’re saying goodbye to a part of your life, which can end in tragedy if something doesn’t feel right. This heighted set of emotion was what I ultimately tried to convey and what I hope everybody can enjoy.