Saturday, October 1, 2016

Anton Chekhov, Aaron Posner, Cameron Crowe?

Last night theatre KAPOW opened Stupid F%cking Bird by Aaron Posner. Posner’s “sort of” adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull poses questions about the nature and purpose of art. Why do we make art? Who is our art for? What does it mean to be an artist? Does art reflect life, or do we try, often in vain, to make our lives reflect our favorite works of art? These questions are enormous; it is up to each individual to find the answers for her or himself.

Stupid F%cking Bird is my first show with theatre KAPOW and I have loved every moment of playing Nina and working with this dedicated and talented group of artists. However as any artist knows, it is one thing to be invested in the art you are making, the question is, will others connect with your art? My parents saw the show last night and when I was able to talk with them about it, my father said something I found very interesting. “Your relationship with Trigorin was just like one between Pennylane and Russell in Almost Famous. It was the same story.” He went on to say that he wondered if Cameron Crowe had read The Seagull and was inspired by the Nina/Trigorin dynamic when he was writing the screenplay for his early twenty-first century rock n’ roll masterpiece.

Of course, I have no idea if Cameron Crowe has read The Seagull, or if the doomed romance between a teenage groupie and a famous rock star was in any way inspired by Nina’s adoration of the brilliant, narcissistic writer. Still, there are certainly recurring themes here. There are other parallels to be drawn as well. Both stories deal with the struggle between “art” and “fame,” persona and reality, our desire to connect and our desires.

If we go back far enough in dramatic history, we can find many other parallels. (The similarities between Chekhov’s Konstantin and Shakespeare’s Hamlet have inspired dissertations.) But the takeaway for me is that the very questions and struggles that plague artists also inspire art. My dad loves rock n’ roll and has never read The Seagull. But he was able to see similarities between the characters and story of Almost Famous and the Chekhovian-inspired characters in Aaron Posner’s modern adaptation. He found something he could connect with there. Maybe he’ll read The Seagull one day, or maybe he’ll be content with what he got out of Bird last night. Either way, those works of art inspired discussion, thought, and ultimately, connection. Not earth-shattering, but perhaps just enough.
~Emily Karel

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