(Translation) Neva

The English translation of Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón's play NEVA. In a politically charged, haunting interrogation of theater and the revolutionary impulse, writer-director Guillermo Calderón’s NEVA tells the story of Anton Chekhov’s widow, the actress Olga Knipper, who arrives in a dimly lit rehearsal room in St. Petersburg in the winter of 1905. As Olga and two other actors await the rest of the cast, they huddle together, act out scenes from their lives and muse on their art form and love—while unseen striking workers are being gunned down in the streets by the Tsarist regime. Calderón savagely examines the relationship between theater and historical context in this sharply funny yet ominous, tightly crafted ensemble work that allows a palpable terror to creep through the theater walls.

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NEVA

by Guillermo Calderón.

English translation by Andrea Thome

Characters

Masha, 36, actress.
Aleko, 30, actor.
Olga Knipper, actress, 36, Chekhov’s widow

St. Petersburg. One hundred years ago, during the afternoon of January 9, 1905.
In the rehearsal room of a theater.

[The following is excerpted from within the play.]

Aleko
Don’t be sad Olga, we’re happy to have you as our invited actress.

Olga
Thank you.

Aleko
Olga I like being an actor. It makes me happy, but I'm embarrassed to be happy. And if no one has come to this rehearsal it’s because today is a bloody Sunday.

Olga
What day is today?

Aleko
The ninth of January 1905, remember that date. On my way to this rehearsal I saw a march of workers that ended in a massacre. I’m scared they may have killed the other actors in this company. I don’t know if you know, but it seems there’s going to be a revolution in this country. And my name is not Sergei, my name is Aleko.

Olga
(Someone enters.) Who is it?

Masha
Masha.

Aleko
Masha!

Olga
Masha, act.

Masha
What?

Olga
The final part of my monologue.

Masha
How do the lines go, Olga?

Olga
Oh, my dear, my sweet...

Masha
Oh yes...un, deux, trois... Oh, my dear, my sweet, my beautiful orchard…my life, my youth, my happiness. Goodbye!...Goodbye!... one last look at the walls, the windows… Our poor mother loved walking in this room…

Aleko
That sounded soulless.

Masha
What?

Aleko
Soulless.

Olga
The most truthful thing you said was un, deux, trois. Masha, I want to see you act.

Masha
Again, Olga?

Olga
No, act. Pick something from your repertoire as an actress, that you enjoy saying... and act it for us.

Masha
Now I understand Kostia... the important thing is to know how to suffer...
(Olga and Aleko laugh.)
Should I go on?

Olga
Yes, go on.

Masha
...to suffer. Learn to bear your cross and to believe...

Olga
I’m trying to believe, but I’m finding it very difficult... Learn to bear your cross... that’s what I'm telling you, the cross of being a bad actress. Do you have bronchitis? So why do you breathe like that? (Making fun of her.) Now I understand, now I understand Kostia. You sound like an accordion. The audience should cry because of the beauty of the words, not because the actress is contorting herself onstage.

Aleko
Olga, could I ask you a technical question? When Anton Chekhov died... six months ago... in your arms... delirious... from tuberculosis... after such a short marriage and having been together for so little time, while you pursued your career at the Moscow Art Theatre, and he was waiting for you alone in Yalta... vomiting blood... lungs. When Anton Chekhov finally died... what did you feel?

Masha
Olga, I hadn’t told you but my shoes are too tight on me, maybe that’s why I can’t breathe very well.

Aleko
Because whatever you felt, Olga, do you use that when you go onstage, to cry, to act?

Olga
I don’t remember. I don’t remember... I want to leave... Masha, can you hold me? I don’t remember! I know that a moth came into the room the night that Anton died, but I don’t know if the moth came in before or after Anton stopped breathing. I also know that Anton was smiling before he died, but I don’t remember... Could you two do me a favor? Could you act out Anton’s death for me? It’s a favor Masha – I am asking you for a favor!

Aleko
Olga, I will play Anton.

Olga
Thank you Aleko.

Masha
I can play Chekhov too.

Olga
Oh yes? (To Masha) Let’s see, cough. (To Aleko) Cough, Aleko. (Aleko coughs.) Cough Masha. (Masha coughs.) (To Aleko.) You will play Anton.

Aleko
Thank you Olga.

Cast Requirements

2 women, 1 man.

Set Description

A small raised platform on an empty, dark stage. The only light comes from a small electric heater on the floor which the actors huddle around.

Publisher

Original text in Spanish published by Artezblai, ©2007.

Press

"Left to make a lasting impression then, is Calderón's subversive language, translated into English for maximum punch by Andrea Thome. I don't know the Spanish equivalent of "the most important organ in my body is my appendix and I want to stick it in your kidney and watch you sweat," but, I know it sounds breathtaking and ridiculous in English." –Theatermania

"Andrea Thome's muscular translation feels ideally suited to the occasion." – Lighting and Sound America

Press

Production and Development History

NEVA was produced by the Public Theater in March 2013, and opens in June 2013 as a co-production between Center Theater Group, South Coast Rep and La Jolla Playhouse.