Project: Uncle Vanya
Production: Breaking String Theatre
Location: Off Center, Austin, TX
Direction: Graham Schmidt
Text: Anton Chekhov
Set: Ia Ensterä
Lighting: Steven Shirey
Costumes: Julia Chinnock-Howze
Sound: Adam Hilton
Composition: Henna Chou
Photography: Will Hollis
"The first impression you'll get of this Breaking String Theater production of Anton Chekhov's classic play will be a striking one, for Ia Ensterä's set design almost bowls you over. Meant to embody a single, generic room, it's wooden pretty much everywhere you look: wooden plank walls and a raised plank stage surrounded by a border of wood chips. And hanging over it all are the leaves and branches of a dead tree. Depending on the scene, the single room set, augmented by various furniture pieces, represents different rooms in the estate, and it takes up the entire stage space at the Off Center, which makes it a pretty big room. The primary entrances into the space are below the raised stage, so people enter, cross the wood chips, then step up onto the stage. Director and translator Graham Schmidt and designer Ensterä seem to be saying that we are not just surrounded by but also dominated by and at the mercy of a corrupt and dying nature, and we see this idea played out in the action of the story. As the stage space is swallowed on all sides by nature, the characters are swallowed by their own natures, and because they have been corrupted, the decisions they make and actions they take often have nothing to do with right or wrong and everything to do with their own envy, jealousy, and unfulfilled desires.
It's an impressive concept and an impressive design..."
"The set design and the lighting are bewitching. Breaking String transforms the austere confines of the Off Center into a virtual diorama of the life of the Russian nobility of the 1890’s. Straw-strewn floors, rough wooden walls, lightning storms just outside the window, a well placed samovar and a cylinder phonograph join together to create the atmosphere of a time gone by."