The Seagull

Antaeus, L.A.'s multiple award-winning classical theater company, marks its 2012 season with a return to seminal ensemble classics. Andrew J. Traister directs the fully double-cast production of The Seagull, Anton Chekhov's tragicomedy about life, love and the reckless pursuit of happiness. Performances take place March 1 through April 15, with low-priced previews beginning February 23, at The Antaeus Company's interim North Hollywood home inside The Deaf West Theatre.

Set on a country estate by a lake in 19th century Russia, the idyllic locale belies the turbulent passions of its inhabitants. When the famed but aging actress Irina Arkádina returns home with her younger lover, she finds a household overflowing with creativity, fantasies of fame, jealousy and unrequited love.

"The Seagull is a comedy of human foibles and frailty," explains Traister. "The behavior in the play is so human and real that it causes us to laugh at ourselves. Each character wants something that is unattainable for him."

He laughs, "I see Chekhov as the first absurdist playwright. He took city people, put them in the country with nothing to do, and they end up eating each other."

Under the interim artistic direction of Tony Amendola, Rob Nagle and John Sloan, this revered play about art and the theater underscores Antaeus' mission to revive classical works with double-casts. In a joint statement, the artistic directors note the significance behind mounting this production: "With The Seagull, we return to Chekhov, where we began 20 years ago with our inaugural production, Chekhov's The Wood Demon."

The Seagull was an abysmal failure when it premiered in St. Petersburg in 1896, but its second staging two years later by Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre received triumphant acclaim. Chekhov admitted his misgivings with the play, referring to it as "lots of talk about literature, little action and 180 lbs. of love." The play has since been recognized as one of the greatest contributions to Russian and world theater and is now regarded as one of the playwright's masterpieces. With its references to Hamlet, stage life, and art in general, The Seagull is an ideal choice for Antaeus with its 100-plus classically trained members and A2 Ensemble of young professionals.

This production's double-cast ensemble includes 23 actors sharing 12 speaking roles: Gigi Bermingham and Laura Wernette as Arkádina; Gregory Itzin and Micheal McShane as Sorin; Joe Delafield and Antonio Jaramillo as Treplev; Abby Wilde and Jules Willcox as Nina; John Achorn and Armin Shimerman as Shamrayev; Dawn Didawick and Reba Waters as Paulina; Avery Clyde and Joanna Strapp as Masha; Bo Foxworth and Adrian LaTourelle as Trigorin; Kurtwood Smith and James Sutorius as Dorn; Bill Brochtrup and Patrick Wenk-Wolff as Medvedenko; Janice Kent and Bonnie Snyder as the Maid; and Brian Abraham as Yakov.

Set design is by Evan Bartoletti and Lisa Lechuga; lighting design is by Jeremy Pivnick; costume design is by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg; sound design is by Jeff Gardner; properties design is by Heather Ho; and the production stage manager is Lara Nall.

Andrew Traister has directed at The Old Globe, Alaska Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Tacoma Actors Guild, Geva Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Diego Repertory Theatre and many others across the country. In Los Angeles, he directed critically acclaimed productions of Awake and Sing (Ovation and Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle nominations) and Waiting for Godot (two LADCC nominations), both at A Noise Within, as well as The Actor's Playpen's inaugural productions of Lolita and Road to Nirvana. Some of the actors that Andrew has had the privilege of directing include Gregory Itzin, John Walcutt, James Whitmore, Michael Lerned, Robert Foxworth, Hal Gould, J.D. Johnston, Ralph Waite, Betsy Palmer and Reed Diamond. He has taught at Cornish College of the Arts, California Institute of the Arts, SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Brockport. From 1987-89 Andrew was Artistic Director of Alaska Repertory Theatre. He served as The Old Globe Associate Artistic Director and Literary Manager from 1980-84 and at the Arizona Theatre Company he was Associate Producing Director from 1999-2003. In 1980 Andrew was the recipient of an NEA Directing Fellowship. He directed the feature film Nicky's Birthday Camera and two award-winning shorts, The Silence of Bees and Just Out of Reach.

Antaeus is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Los Angeles. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members - many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences - regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film and television, and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards.