The Variants

 
Variant Scene in SEAGULL, Act II Photo Credit: Jenny Graham

Variant Scene in SEAGULL, Act II
Photo Credit: Jenny Graham

A distinctive trademark of our new versions of Chekhov’s plays is our inclusion of certain “variants” that have rarely been included in American translations of Chekhov’s work.

Chekhov, like all Russian playwrights of the period, experienced government censorship of his manuscripts in which lines and phrases needed to be cut.  Additionally, amiable but forceful suggestions came from his collaborators and director at the Moscow Art Theatre, Konstantin Stanislavski.  Perhaps Chekhov himself made some of these changes of his own volition, but we can never know just how much Chekhov himself approved of these changes in the text.

Fortunately, the excised portions and recorded changes for his plays exist.  They are noted by Russian scholars as the “variants” and there are a number of them for each of the plays.  The “variants” have seldom been used in translations and adaptations of Chekhov’s work in English over the last century, possibly because they largely remained undiscovered by American translators for so long.  But we have been intrigued by them and have chosen to include several of them in our translations.

Allison first created her literal translations from Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, an 18-volume Russian language collection of Chekhov’s works and letters published in the Soviet Union which include extensive notation of “variants” in Chekhov’s work.  Libby then chose which of the “variants” would be compatible with our adaptations. You will note that in The Cherry Orchard a whole scene has been added with Charlotta and Firs at the end of the 2nd act.  Charlotta’s monologue about her life has been moved from the first scene in that act to the scene with Firs.  There are other lines added to Uncle Vanya andThree Sisters. In Seagull there are several changes including additions to Polina’s speech about her husband in Act 2 and a scene between Polina and Dorn at the end of Act 4.

We believe these additional “variants” add richness to the characters and the plays.  They have been used very judiciously as we wish to be true to Chekhov’s intentions in every way possible. But we are sure that added to the American flow and rhetoric of the language, the “variants” make our translations completely unique. 
                                          -Allison Horsley

Variant Scene in THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Act II Photo Credit: Jenny Graham

Variant Scene in THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Act II
Photo Credit: Jenny Graham

THE CHERRY ORCHARD VARIANT SAMPLE, END OF ACT II

ANYA (pensively)
The moon is rising.

YEPIKHODOV is heard playing the same sad song on the guitar. The moon is rising. Among the poplars VARYA is looking for ANYA and calls: “Anya! Where are you?”

TROFIMOV
Yes, the moon is rising.

Pause.

Here it is, happiness, here it comes, it is always getting closer and closer, I already hear its footsteps. And if we don’t recognize it, what does it matter, others will!

The voice of VARYA: “Anya! Where are you?”

It’s Varya again! (Angrily.) Disgusting!

ANYA
Well? Let’s go to the river. It’s so nice there.

TROFIMOV
Yes, let’s go.

They go.

The voice of VARYA: “Anya! Anya!”

 

Variant Begins Here:

Enter FIRS, then CHARLOTTA IVANOVNA. FIRS is muttering, looking for something on the ground near the bench. He lights a match.

FIRS
(Mutters) Ekh, you nincompoop!

CHARLOTTA
(She takes a seat on the bench and takes off her cap.) Is that you, Firs? What are you looking for here?

FIRS The mistress lost her purse.

CHARLOTTA
(She looks.) Here is a fan … And here is a handkerchief . . . it smells like expensive perfume.

Pause.

There is nothing else. Lyubov Andreyevna is perpetually losing something. She even loses her own life. (She quietly sings a song.) I don’t have a current passport, Grandpa. I don’t even know how old I am, but it always seems to me that I am quite young. (She puts her cap on Firs; he sits motionless.) Oh, I love you, my sweet old dear. (She laughs.) Einz, zwei, drei! (She takes the cap off Firs and puts it on herself.) When I was a little girl, my father and mother were circus performers at fairs. They were very good. And I did the “salto-mortale” and other grand tricks. When Papa and Mama died, a German lady took me in and she began to teach me. Gut. I grew up, then I became a governess. But where I’m from, who I am – I don’t know… Who my parents were, if they were even married… I don’t know… (She takes a cucumber from a pocket and eats.) I don’t know anything.

FIRS
When I was 20 or 25, I was out for a walk with the deacon’s son, and the cook Vasilii, and we saw someone sitting on a stone by the side of the road — someone strange, a nobody really. I got scared and after I left, they killed the man. He had some money on him.

CHARLOTTA
Well? Weiter.

FIRS
Later, well, they arrested them and questioned them. Then the trial came. They got me too. I was in jail for two years… It was a long time ago.

Pause

I don’t remember all of it…

CHARLOTTA
You will die soon, grandpa.

We hear YEPIKHODOV's guitar...The moon is rising...Somewhere by the poplars VARYA looks for ANYA and calls: "Anya! Where are you!"

End of Act II