I take your hand in mine …, is a play suggested by the love letters of Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper and traces the passionate relationship between the world famous dramatist and Russia’s leading actress.
The six-year correspondence spans the birth of the Moscow Art Theatre and the production of Chekhov’s four major plays. Embedded into the everyday are gems of theatre history and insights into Chekhov’s creative process as well as revealing a real life drama that is as tempestuous, teasing and spontaneous as any Chekhov play.
Presented by The Chekhov Collective in association with Theatrus
written by Carol Rocamora
directed by Dmitry Zhukovsky
performed by Richard Sheridan Willis, Rena Polley
running time: 90 min
History of the play
“… a beautiful play about two beautiful people. A gift for all lovers of the theatre.” Olympia Dukakis
I take your hand in mine … was written by Chekhov translator, teacher and playwright Carol Rocamora for the American actress Olympia Dukakis and her husband Louis Zorich. In 2000 they performed a staged reading of the play at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The play was first performed in 2001 at London’s Almeida Theatre, starring Paul Scofield and Irene Worth. It was subsequently produced in 2003 in Paris’s Theatre des Bouffes du Nord
and throughout Europe in a French-language production directed by Peter Brook starring his wife Natasha Parry and Michel Piccoli.
Since then, the play has been translated into many languages and performed in cities around the world including London, Prague, Valencia, Brussels, Athens, Stockholm, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Moscow, Turino, and China.
I take your hand in mine … is a co-production between Toronto’s The Chekhov Collective,
a company founded by Rena Polley to explore the works of Anton Chekhov and the acting technique of his nephew Michael Chekhov, and Theatrus, a performance art company created by recent Russian émigrées Dmitry Zhukovsky and Yulia Rubina.
They are the producers behind The Cherry Orchard 2016 and The Seagull in 2014.
Creative Team Bios
Richard Sheridan Willis
Richard trained at RADA and has worked extensively at theatres throughout the world. Companies include Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC; Norway’s National Theatre; Peter Hall Company, London; Denver Centre Theatre Co; The Wilma Theatre, Philadelphia. Last year he played Gaev in The Cherry Orchard for The Chekhov Collective at Canadian Stage. Recent theatre includes Breathing Corpses (Coal Mine) Title role in Julius Caesar (St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival) Twelfth Night, Henry V (Folger Library Theatre), The Clockmaker, Vigil (STC), Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (STONC), Father in The Railway Children (Roundhouse Theatre, Toronto), Vigil (STC), Catch 22 (Lucille Lortelle, NYC). In 2013 he performed his one-man play Strolling Player at the Tarragon Extraspace in the Toronto Fringe Festival, which has also played in the UK and Washington DC. He is currently working on his next play Boy Beatle. TV: Dr Who, Law & Order, Flashpoint, Nikita, Lost Girl. Film: The Big Bad Swim, Absolution, Ghost in the Noonday Sun.
Carol Rocamora is a translator, director, teacher and playwright and received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Russian literature. Dr. Rocamora has translated Chekhov’s complete dramatic works as well as writing her play I Take Your Hand in mine … She currently teaches theatre in the Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Dr. Rocamora has been the recipient of the David Payne Carter Award for Teaching Excellence. She also lectures on Chekhov and theatre history at the Juilliard School. Formerly, she was the founder and artistic director of the Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays at the Annenberg Center. Her other publications include two biographies: Acts of Courage: Vaclav Havel’s Life in the Theatre (2005); Anton Chekhov: A Life In Four Acts (2013); and a new collection of Russian adaptations entitled, Troika (2016). She has written about theatre for The Nation, The New York Times and The London Guardian, and currently contributes to American Theatre Magazine and other on-line publications. She is a member of the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and American Theatre Critics Association.
Dmitry Zhukovsky Director
Dmitry Zhukovsky is a theatre director, producer and acting coach. His theatre career includes about 15 years as an actor and more than 25 years of teaching acting and directing in the leading theatre, TV and film schools in the USSR, Moldova and Russia. Moving to Canada, Dmitry has created Theatrus company and participated in several theatre, educational and art projects among which The Musician. An Étude (2014), Vivisection (Toronto, Nuit Blanche 2015), Freedom of Expression (acting training workshop), The Tongue Play (Toronto, Ryerson University, 2017) Russian Souls (Washington and Lee University, USA 2018).
I Take Your Hand in Mine is Dmitry's second collaboration as a director with The Chekhov Collective after the production of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in 2016.
Rena is an actor, writer, producer and teacher and has worked in theatre, television and film for over twenty years. For The Chekhov Collective she recently played Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard, Arkadina in The Seagull and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. She was co-artistic director of Stiletto Theatre Company and has also written, produced and performed in three short films that toured various festivals around the world. She has been nominated for a "Best Actress Award" at the Yorkton Film Festival as well as three Dora's for Stiletto Company's production of Derailed, which was published by Playwrights Canada. Rena has been involved for fifteen years with the Michael Chekhov Association and is a founding member of Michael Chekhov Canada.
Yulia Rubina Producer
Yulia Rubina is a communications specialist and theatre producer. She is a co-founder of Theatrus, theatre group based in Toronto. Having arrived in Canada, she has participated in co-production and community outreach for the production The Musician, An Étude (2014), show Vivisection (Nuit Blanche 2015) and was co-producer for Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (2016).
We have performed “I Take Your Hand …” in Toronto and Washington, DC.
"This play ... is exceptional. Go see it. You'll fall gloriously in love. " Maryland Theatre Guide
"Short of seeing a major Chekhov play, this is a good way get close to the beloved Russian playwright."
“Don’t lose the opportunity to see this beautifully honest work. A delicious performance from start to finish”
A matchless, hypnotic portrait of love … a treasure trove of power-sharing between two actors that led me to lean way forward in my seat. As I looked around, I was not the only one."
"…I found them mesmerizing, these two!... both of them humourous and playful to the end in the face of adversity ... 'I take your hand in mine' is a must see for Chekhov enthusiasts.” Mooney on Theatre
"Judging from the audience’s ecstatic welcome on opening night, it’s clear that many fans have been eagerly awaiting the play’s return. Director Zhukovsky has eliminated the need for costuming, instead keeping us completely involved in the characters rather than the 'period'. It's so sensible an approach that one doesn't even take notice until midway into the play." Scene Changes
"Together we fall in love with them ... we are within the tragicomedy human spirit, the spirit so much requested and desired by Chekhov."
"I Take Your Hand in Mine… is a play that has a strange resonance to it, of sadness and a larger joy. Like fine wine, it’s a drama to savour."
"Two-hander about Chekhov's relationship with Olga Knipper captures the spirit of the Russian master..."
Nice things audience said
"This was a beautiful piece of theatre. The storytelling was captivating from start to finish, both through the careful stitching together of these lovers' words and their flowing delivery by two very talented actors. Well done."
"Richard Sheridan Willis and Rena Polley skillfully and effortlessly painted love story filled with the pain of separation and the delight of their short reunions. Rena, as Olga Knipper is torn between the love of her life Anton Chekhov and the passion of her life theatre. She desperately needs to be by his side, but burns with a desire to succeed as an actress. Overfilled with emotions, spilling them into letters and into her play she is a wonderful embodiment of the female spirit. Richard takes our hands and walks us through the lonely, but full of love life of Anton Chekhov. Sadness and tender love, sense of humor and constant battle with health problems fuel his heart and mind and result in the birth of masterpieces. Wonderful production, absolutely loved it!”
"Just saw your beautiful play! Enjoyed it so much! Great acting, too!" Ela Lapinski
"I have only superlatives for yesterday afternoon's performance. This deeply moving experience will remain with me for a long time.”
"I saw the play on Sunday. It was outstanding... first the 2 actors were brilliant as was the dialogue between them... interesting and crisp and highlighting important events ... for 90 minutes you held everybody's attention..."
"What a beautifully directed and performed play! Superb acting, moving and alive. Would not have expected love letters to be translated into such a dynamic play!"
"What a captivating play! ...The director and actors did an exceptional job of distilling and integrating their subjects’ correspondence into the life and times of the day, to weave their story into a coherent and entertaining narrative. I highly recommend this play – I wept through the entire last year of Chekov as he succumbed to his illness with the support and love of Olga at his side. It is a truly exceptional effort by both the actors, Richard Sheridan Willis and Rena Polley, and the director, Dmitry Zhukovsky."
"An impressive performance ... The epistolary form is very difficult to stage. I was amazed by the accomplished drama presented on the stage. Strongly recommended!"
“We must go on Living”
Chekhov for the
CBC The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright
Includes Interview with playwright Carol Rocamora, director Dmitry Zhukvosky and actors Rena Polley and Richard Sheridan Willis.
I Take Your Hand in Mine … is a theatrical show but adapts easily to different spaces, from rehearsal rooms, to theatre stages as well as small concert halls or spacious rooms. Minimalistic in its essence, the play intentionally avoids any outer effects. There are no sophisticated sets, no lighting or sound cues. The focus is on the theatrics of two characters and their relationship with each other, using their bodies to create pictures in space and against a wall. Thus, the only mandatory set element is a back wall.
There are 4 armless chairs, an armed chair, small table and a coat stand.
TOURING COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
appeals to students of Theatre Arts, Russian History and English Literature
students have an opportunity to meet with and learn from professional performers
master class offered in acting
show adapts easily to various spaces
Community outreach. Teaching
Our creative team brings their talent and teaching experience to students of Dramatic Arts and Movement.
A certified teacher of the Michael Chekhov technique, Rena has studied with Master Teacher Joanna Merlin (last living student of Michael Chekhov) for the past 17 years. She is also co-founder of Michael Chekhov Canada, and is a guest teacher at George Brown College.
Michael Chekhov believed that every physical action has the ability to awaken within the actor creative feelings and sensations. These become creative tools where the actor can explore and develop a rich inner life for the character. Actors contain within themselves infinite possibilities and Chekhov’s technique encourages the actor to listen and act upon his/her own creative individuality.
Richard Sheridan Willis
Having acted since the age 6 years old, and then a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Richard has led numerous masterclasses and workshops in over 80 universities and colleges throughout the USA and Canada for the past 20 years; including New York University, Omaha Nation School, Sudbury Secondary School, Penn State University, University of Maine and the Globe Theatre, Neuss in Germany.
The Actor’s Toolbox. Exploring acting from rehearsal to performance. How to prepare at home, how to explore the directors notes and how to combine these for a fully realized performance.
The Chekhov Collective