Chekhov’s beloved Olga back to haunt Berkeley stage

Olga Sergeyevna Prozorova is always on her way out but never leaves.

Olga and her sisters in Anton Chekhov’s play “Three Sisters” keep talking about how they’re going to go back to Moscow, and it keeps not happening. Perhaps that’s one reason why Olga has never left Beth Wilmurt either.

Wilmurt is the writer and performer of “OLGA A Farewell Concert,” a cabaret evening in the persona of Olga that Aurora Theatre Company commissioned to kick off its new works initiative, Originate + Generate, now playing in a limited two-week engagement on Aurora’s intimate second stage, Harry’s UpStage.

The character has stuck with Wilmurt ever since she played Olga in “Yes Yes to Moscow,” a devised piece with longtime partner Mark Jackson ten years ago.

“Mark and I went to Germany, and we made this piece with a couple of German artists,” Wilmurt recalls. “It was as if the sisters made it to Moscow, but right before they entered they were in some kind of holding pattern where they just couldn’t take the final step. It was like a dance theater piece. We did it at the San Francisco International Arts Festival in 2008, too. And the character kind of stuck with me. I thought I want to do more with her.”

And so Wilmurt decided to keep the relationship going.

“Usually as actors we don’t really get to do that,” she said. “The play’s over, and we let go of that character. I enjoy taking characters out of their theatrical context and see how they live. I wanted to live with Olga a little bit longer, so I thought she might be a nice candidate for a cabaret act.”

The musical numbers aren’t originals but preexisting songs that said Olga to Wilmurt.

“I started collecting music that seemed like things she’d sing about or think about,” she says. “I guess one main theme was her stuckness. The girls are always talking about going to Moscow, but they never get there. Denial and being stuck, having dashed hopes, her spinsterhood — those are some of the main themes. We’re doing maybe 17 or 18 songs, but I’ve learned about 50 songs that feel like Olga, so I actually have several set lists. Maybe even over the course of the nine days we might swap out a song.”

Though Olga is rooted in Russia circa 1900, when Chekhov’s play was written, Wilmurt’s song selections are considerably more contemporary and

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

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