Magazine

Feature: 9 Facts about Chekhov

Date posted: 1 Nov 2017Author: STC Production: Three Sisters

Caryl Churchill (Photo: Marc Brenner)
Anton Chekhov

 

1. BIRTH AND DEATH...

Anton Chekhov was born in 1860 in Taganrog, Russia. The son of Pavel and Yevgeniya, the pair ran a grocery store until 1876 when Pavel declared bankruptcy. Sadly, at the young age of 24 Chekhov began to show signs of tuberculosis. On 15 July 1904, he passed away at the age of 44 from the illness in Germany. 

 

2. ONE FINAL DRINK...

In the final moments of his life, Chekhov woke in the middle of the night and summoned a doctor to his side. Sadly, the physician could do nothing to help other than offer him a drink. Chekhov’s final words… “It’s a long time since I drank champagne.”

 

3. MARRIED TO OLGA, WHO PLAYED MASHA...

In 1901 at the age of 41, Chekhov married Olga Knipper – an actress who originated the role of Masha in Three Sisters. The pair were involved in a long distance relationship with Chekhov living in Yalta and Olga in Moscow pursuing her acting career. The marriage ended due to Chekhov’s death only three years later. 

 

4. THE LAWFUL WIFE AND THE MISTRESS...

A man of many talents, Chekhov was also a qualified doctor. Having pursued a career in both medicine and literature, he is quoted as saying, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress.” 

 

5. A MONGOOSE CALLED SVOLOCH...

Forget cats and dogs, Chekhov once owned a mongoose called Svoloch (the Russian word for ’bastard’). He described his bizarre pet as “a mixture of rat and crocodile, tiger and monkey.”

 

6. THE BOB DYLAN CONNECTION...

Playwright Andrew Upton has included Bob Dylan lyrics in his adaptation of Three Sisters. Bob Dylan was also a great Chekhov fan. In his memoir, Chronicles, Dylan wrote; “I would even record an entire album based on Chekhov short stories. Critics thought it was autobiographical – that was fine.” 

 

7. SHOOT TO KILL...

The concept of ‘Chekhov’s gun’ is a dramatic principle inspired by statements Chekhov made throughout his career. Put simply, Chekhov once wrote: “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”

 

8. FODDER FOR FILM...

Over the years, there have been many adaptations and interpretations of Chekhov’s work from the stage to screen, including the critically successful adaptations of The Duel in 2010, Vanya on 42nd Street (based on Uncle Vanya) in 1994, and The Cherry Orchard in 1999. In fact, only Shakespeare outranks Chekhov with the amount of film adaptations of a playwright’s work. 

 

9. A MAN OF MANY NAMES...

Earlier in his career, Chekhov used different pen-names to publish short stories and humourist pieces. He wrote several short stories under the pseudonym ‘Anton Man Without Spleen’ and others under ‘Antosha Chekhonte’.

 

Three Sisters, 6 Nov – 16 Dec 2017, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House

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