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Posts Tagged ‘Three Sisters’

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When I heard yesterday that actor Jerry Stiller died, I didn’t immediately think of his Emmy winning performance on Seinfeld, I went to Broadway and Chekhov. It was 1997 and my first trip to New York City and seeing my first Broadway play. And it was magical.

I don’t have anything to add to the many obituaries on Stiller, but as a way to celebrate his life in theater, I’ve scanned the Playbill from his performance as one of the actors in Three Sisters.  

Stiller was joined by an incredible cast that included  Robert Bogue, Billy Crudup, Calista Flockhart, Paul Giamatti, David Marshall Grant, Ben Hammer, Amy Irving, Betty Miller, Eric Stoltz, David Strathairn, Lili Taylor, Justin Theroux, and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

Never before or since have I seen more talented people on stage in the same play. And since it was a matinee performance they did a Q&A with some of the actors afterwards and I snuck in a question.

It was a weekend of not only connecting with actors, and the writings of the great Russian playwright, the crew, the Roundabout Theatre Company, and a Times Square building that was built in 1895, but it was a whirlwind weekend of being fully alive.

We celebrated my wife’s birthday weekend and Valentine’s Day by with a horse carriage ride through central park, ate at an Italian restaurant, went to a concert at Carnegie Hall, made a stop at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, did a boat tour with glorious views of the Stature of Liberty and the Twin Towers, toured Ellis Island and went to the top of the Empire State Building and somehow found time to sleep at Waldorf Astoria.

I was 36-years-old and had dreamed of a trip like that for probably 10 or 15 years. I was a long way from my youth of playing football barefoot on a dead-end street in Central Florida.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen or read Three Sisters, but I remember it as a play about spiritual longings for hope the the midst of despair. A time when all of the mysteries of life will disappear. At the end of the play Irina is comforted by her older sister who says, “It seems as if a little while more we shall know why we live, why we suffer … If we only knew, if we only knew.”

And that is why Chekhov’s writings from the late 1800s could resonate on Broadway in 1997, today, or a hundred years from now.

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P.S. It appears that Stiller’s 1997 performance in Three Sisters was his last stage play performance and the same year he won an Emmy for his role on Seinfeld. 

Scott W. Smith

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“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
                                    Blanche DuBois’ character in A Streetcar Named Desire
                                    written by Tennessee Williams (Univ. of Iowa grad)
 

Last Friday after my shoot in New York I asked an actress what was the must see play in New York and she said Ruined. I was unfamiliar with the play written by Lynn Nottage despite it winning the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year.  So it was time I got up to speed. In pervious trips to New York I had seen Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Chekhov’s Three Sisters and was game for a drama as they appeal to me more than the large musicals.

I was told tickets were $75 so I was hoping to score some discounted tickets. Then I found out the show was closing its run on Sunday which meant that getting tickets to see one of the last three performances Ruined might be a challenge. I found out that all three performances were in fact sold out, but that I could come to the box office and see if there were any returns.

So here is the short story of how I relied on the kindness of strangers.

The first stranger to help told me which subway to take to get to the City Center where Ruined was being performed. The second stranger to help asked me if I wanted to use her subway ticket that was still good for another hour. I arrived at the City Center box office half an hour before the window even opened and an hour and a half before the performance. And there was already a line of 13 people.

As the line grew longer we were told that only a handful of people would probably get in. At least one couple toward the back of the line sent one person into the street and the eventually got tickets which was a little frustrating. It was turning into its own little drama. As it got closer to the time for the start of the play the line in front of me got smaller but it the odds didn’t look good. Would I be best to try my luck on people walking in who had an extra ticket?

Since I had waited in line so long I decided to try my luck staying in line. The was only one person in front of me when the lady at the box office told the group in line that there were no more tickets. Sorry. Thanks for playing. A few of us lamented about how close we came. The women in front of me said she came half an hour before me and somehow that made me feel better. The guy behind me was from L.A. was flying back and this was the only performance he could try and see. I at least could come back for the show that night and try my luck again.

But I’m also not prone to giving up. And this is where persistence and providence met. I also factored into it that there might be one person running late who had an extra ticket. So all alone now to scrap for tickets I asked a couple people running a little late if they had an extra ticket. I got that knowing smirk that says, “Sorry beggar.” 

Then my third stranger of the day, Renee from Brooklyn, showed up. “Do you happen to have an extra ticket?” Without stopping she said, “I sure do. Follow me.” And a few minutes later I was sitting down watching Ruined. I’ll write about the play itself tomorrow, but what makes my story all the better is when I tried to pay Renee from Brooklyn for the tickets she said, “No, just enjoy the play. And pay it forward.”

I haven’t always depended on the kindness of strangers, but it’s nice to see it played out in real life every once in a while.

The whole experience made me think back a couple years ago when I was freelance producing for a company in Orlando and the owner of the company gave me a couple tickets to an Orlando Magic game just a couple hours before the game started. I couldn’t find anyone to go so planned to give the ticket away to whoever asked. I walked around for a few minutes before this little boy about 10 years old said, “Do you have an extra ticket?” I did.

He was savvy enough to notice I was giving him a valuable lower bowl ticket and his eyes lit up. Made my day.

Remember the old saying, “You have not because you asked not.”

 

Scott W. Smith 

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