BU Today

Arts & Entertainment

Backstage at BU: Into The Cherry Orchard

A five-part series on the year in drama

Click on the slide show above to listen to students talk about performing in The Cherry Orchard.

Boston University loves drama, from the moodiness of Anton Chekhov to the humor of George Bernard Shaw. The GRS Creative Writing Program’s elite playwriting program has produced some of today’s most successful young playwrights, such as Ronan Noone (GRS’01) and Melinda Lopez (GRS’00), and benefited from decades of partnership with BU’s Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, founded by Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize winning poet and a BU professor, and the Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at Boston University. The 25-year relationship between BU and the Huntington has given one of the country’s best professional companies a performance space and offered BU students an opportunity for hands-on experience.

This week BU Today looks at five shows produced at Boston University in 2006 and 2007, ranging from workshops at the College of Fine Arts to full-scale productions by the Huntington. Click here to see “Making Brendan: Ronan Noone on the Process and the Play” and “The Popular Puccini.” Check back tomorrow for “Tonight, Tonight: West Side Story Turns 50 at Tsai.”

Into The Cherry Orchard: Student Actors Step Up to BU’s Huntington Stage

Jessica Rothenberg (CFA’09) has played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but until she took on the role of Anya in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, she had never entered a world of such complex drama. First staged in 1904, The Cherry Orchard is alternately farcical and depressing, sweeping and claustrophobic, and this year’s Huntington Theatre Company production left audience members teasingly uncertain about whether they had watched a comedy or a tragedy.

The play, put on by the Huntington from January 5 through February 4, brought to life the final, failed efforts of a once-wealthy family to cling to its past, in the form of a cherry orchard of legendary beauty. Lyuba Ranevsky, played by Kate Burton — known to television viewers for her role in Grey’s Anatomy — returns to the family home just before it is being auctioned to pay the mortgage, having frittered away her fortune and her love. Remarkably, Ranevsky, who lost a young son in a drowning accident, refuses to let the sale of her beloved home ruffle a chilling mantle of superficial gaiety. What is left when the lights go down is the sound of axes chopping wood.

Rothenberg and Patrick Lynch (CFA’07), who played the stationmaster, were two of several BU students who appeared in the production, based on a new translation by Richard Nelson and directed by Nicholas Martin.

"Into The Cherry Orchard" originally appeared on BU Today in January 2007.