The Cherry Orchard – Auditions

Dates: 28 April to 2 May

Venue: Oxford Playhouse

Director: Simon Tavener

About the Production

The Cherry Orchard is one of the great plays of world literature. First performed in Oxford in 1925, it will be the 60th play that OTG has presented at the Playhouse – something very few companies have done.

The play is very much a play for actors. All of the characters are clearly written and richly textured. We will be focusing on exploring each character in depth as well as looking at the historical and social background of the period.

The stage design will be inspired by the Impressionist movement in art. It will largely be constructed out of fabric with a few key items of furniture. The impressionist set will be contrasted with the realism of the costumes – and the naturalist acting style.

We will be using a translation by Julius West – which can be read here.

The play is a delicate blend of the comic and the tragic, the farcical and the melancholic. Creating and sustaining that balance will be our key to creating a satisfying and engaging production.

Synopsis

The Cherry Orchard describes the lives of a group of Russians, in the wake of the Liberation of the serfs. The action takes place over the course of five or six months, but the histories of the characters are so complex that in many ways, the play begins years earlier.

The play opens in May, inside the cherry orchard estate; friends, neighbours, and servants are preparing for the long-awaited return of Madame Ranevsky, the mistress of the house, and her daughter Anya. Madame Ranevsky has two daughters. She had fled the cherry orchard five years before, after the deaths of her husband and young son. She is now returning from France, where her abusive lover had robbed and abandoned her. She has accrued great debts during her absence.

Lopakhin begins by telling the story of his own success: born a serf, he has managed to make himself a fortune. Another former serf, Fiers, readies the house during Lopakhin's speeches. Fiers has maintained the same post he always has, despite the Liberation. Dunyasha confesses a potential romance between she and Epikhodof, but no one is interested.

Finally, Madame Ranevsky returns. Her friends and family are overjoyed to see her. Act I introduces many subplots: a romance between the tutor Trofimov and Anya, another hopeful romance between her sister Varya and wealthy Lopakhin, a love triangle between the servants Dunyasha, Yasha, and Epikhodov, the debt of the neighbour Pischik, the class struggles of Lopakhin and Fiers, the isolation of Charlotta, etc. The main intrigue of the play, however, hinges on Madame Ranevsky's debt. Neither she nor her brother Gaev have money to pay the mortgage on the cherry orchard estate, and unless they find a solution, the estate will be auctioned off in August.

Lopakhin suggests that Madame Ranevsky build villas on the estate. She can lease them and use the money to pay the mortgage. Madame Ranevsky and Gaev object to the idea, and prefer to work something out on their own. However, as spring passes into summer, Madame Ranevsky only finds herself more in debt, with no solution in sight. Strange romances between Anya and Trofimov and Dunyasha and Yasha continue, while nothing develops between Lopakhin and Varya and Dunyasha and Epikhodov. Fiers' health is declining. Madame Ranevsky is receiving letters from her lover, and Gaev begins to consider a job at a bank. Pischik takes out loans from Madame Ranevsky, whose own funds are dwindling away to nothing.

On the night of the auction, no solution has arrived. Madame Ranevsky holds a ball. Charlotta performs, and guests and servants alike dance. Madame Ranevsky and Trofimov have a serious conversation about Madame Ranevsky's extravagance; not only does she continue to run up debts, but she is now considering returning to her abusive lover in France. Madame Ranevsky is nervous about the outcome of the auction; she is still hoping for a miracle.

Finally Gaev and Lopakhin return: Lopakhin has bought the cherry orchard. Varya is furious, and Madame Ranevsky is devastated. Lopakhin, however, cannot hide his happiness: he has bought the estate where his family lived as serfs. Ironically, he encourages the party to continue, even though the hosts are no longer in the mood to celebrate.

Act IV shows Madame Ranevsky leaving the estate for the last time. Lopakhin has bought champagne, but no one except the uppity servant Yasha will drink it. Lopakhin and Trofimov share a tender farewell: Trofimov will return to the university. Charlotta complains that she no longer has a position; Epikhodov has a new position with Lopakhin. Pischik is able to pay off some of his debts. Gaev has a job at a bank, Varya a position as a housekeeper, and Yasha will stay on with Madame Ranevsky, who is returning to France. Many characters try to confirm that Fiers has been sent to the hospital. Lopakhin misses his last chance with Varya, and Dunyasha cries that Yasha is leaving.

Madame Ranevsky and Gaev share a nostalgic moment alone before leaving on a relatively optimistic note. In the last moment, we hear axes cutting down the orchard, and Fiers stumbles on to stage, forgotten, locked in the house. He lies down to rest...

Important Dates

Launch Event:

Sunday 10 November, 6pm to 8pm, Summertown United Reform Church

First Round auditions:

Tuesday 12 November, 7.30pm to 9.30pm, The Venue@Cowley, 242b Barns Road, Oxford OX4 3RQ

Sunday 17 November, 2pm to 4pm, Summertown United Reform Church

Monday 18 November, 7.30pm to 9.30pm, Summertown United Reform Church

Recall audition (by invitation only):

Sunday 24 November, 2pm to 6pm, Summertown United Reform Church

Get In/Technical Rehearsal (subject to confirmation)

Sunday 26 April, 10am to 6pm, Oxford Playhouse

Dress Rehearsal

Monday 27 April, 6pm to 10pm, Oxford Playhouse

Map to the URC

Map to The Venue@Cowley

Roles available

Madame Ranevsky – (F. Playing age 45+) Owner of the estate. Incapable of action as ‘frozen’ by the death of her beloved child, Grisha. Extravagant physically, emotionally and financially – but maybe only to hide her pain.

Anya – (F. Playing age 17) Ranevsky’s daughter and only surviving biological child returning home with her mother with whom she has been spending some time. She is a wide-eyed innocent who has a visceral reaction against Ranevsky’s conspicuous consumption in Paris. She is receptive to Trofimov’s revolutionary sentiments with whom she is besotted.

Varya – (F. Playing age mid/late 20s/early 30s) Ranevsky’s adopted daughter – very moral and has considered taking holy orders. However very much in love with Lopakhin with whom she is ‘loosely engaged.’ Very straight-headed and has been trying to run the estate.

Charlotta – (F. Playing age – 30s upwards) Anya’s governess. Very quirky and very much her own person. Enjoys mocking others. A ventriloquist and amateur conjuror. Possible German accent.

Dunyasha – (F. Playing age – 18-21) Maidservant to estate. In love with Yasha but already ‘loosely engaged’ to Epikhodov.

Gaev – (M. Playing age - 50s) Ranevsky’s brother. Left to look after the estate but made a bad job of it. An eternal optimist (and dreamer/fantasist that a solution will magically appear) until those terrible moments where reality come crashing in. Has a curious verbal tick where he speaks in billiards metaphors. He is dapper, occasionally prissy. An eternal bachelor.

Pischik – (M. Playing age 50s/60s) local landowner, forever in debt asking for small loans. Always seems to land on is feet however. Some comic moments of business such as when he panics having mislaid some money but still very much a real person who has genuine worries.

Lopakhin – (M. Playing age late 30s/early 40s) local businessman, son of a peasant. A ‘good’ and seemingly positive character – however his overstated joy at eventually owning the house and estate reveals a darker side and class hatred. Has ongoing ‘loose engagement’ with Varya which comes to nothing.

Epikhodov – (M. Playing age Mid-20s/mid 30s) Highly strung, morose and clumsy clerk. Nicknamed ‘Million Miseries.’ In love with Dunyasha who has returned his affections – until she meets Yasha. Plays guitar (or can fake it)

Yasha – (M. Playing age Late 20s – early 30s) Ranevsky’s manservant with a talent for teasing and imagining himself better than he is. He can be a dreamer. However, he does show a vulnerable side in Act Three where he begs Ranevsky to be kept on when she returns to Paris.

Fiers – (M. Playing age Mid/late 80s) Servant to the estate. Wedded to the past and the old social order citing the emancipation of the serfs as the worst day of his life. Suffering from a form of dementia as well as deafness.

Trofimov – (M. Playing age 26-30) The perpetual student sent down from university after university for his revolutionary activity. But he is no Bolshevik. Former tutor to Grisha.

Stationmaster – (M. Playing age 40+) A comic cameo – invited to the party, as Fiers states, against his will, he attempts to recite a poem but loses his audience and leaves the stage with as much dignity as he can muster.

A homeless beggar/ex-soldier – (M. Playing age 30+) Persistent and an unsettling glimpse of the powder keg of wider Russian society.

Ensemble 2M 3F – (playing ages 20s to 60s) Playing members of the Ranevsky household, guests at the Ball in Act 3 and other supporting characters. They will also be the understudies for the production.

The playing ages are indicative rather than prescriptive – you don't need to limit yourself because of the numbers.

If you have specific questions about the characters and what is involved, please contact the director at simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com and he will be happy to help.

Understudy List

Stationmaster
Beggar
Ensemble 1 (M)
Ensemble 2 (M)
Ensemble 1 (F)
Ensemble 2 (F)
Ensemble 3 (F)

– Gaev/Fiers/Pischik
– Lopakhin
– Trofimov
– Yasha/Ephikodov
– Ranevsky
– Anya/Varya
– Charlotta/Dunyasha
 

Launch Event

On Sunday 10 November, there will be a launch event for the production at Summertown URC between 6pm and 8pm. The event is open to anyone interested in getting involved in the production – whether on stage or as part of the production team.

After a brief presentation about the play, the production and how it will all work, you will have plenty of time to ask any questions you may have.

If you can't make it and still want to ask questions, please email simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com and he will be happy to answer any queries.

Audition Process

There will be 3 first round auditions and then recalls by invitation only.

In the first rounds, we will be working on speeches and scenes related to but not drawn from the script of The Cherry Orchard. You will not be required to prepare anything in advance – the texts will be available in the room. Our aim is to assess your potential rather than to immediately consider you for specific characters.

The sessions will run for 2 hours and you will be given the opportunity to work on a range of scenes with a range of different actors. It will be a relaxed and informal process – so please try not to get too anxious. Easier said than done, of course!

If invited to the recalls, you will be sent a small number of scenes from The Cherry Orchard to look at. You won’t be required to learn them – just become familiar with them. This is the point that we will be looking at specific characters and combinations. Creating the central family is one of the key aims of the recall process as well exploring the chemistry in all the key relationships.

We will be aiming to timetable this to enable us to see as many combinations as we can – and, of course, give you as much time as possible to shine.

It is important to note that we may not be recalling for every role. So not hearing about recalls does not mean that you are out of contention.

Accessibility concerns

If you have any specific needs with regards to access or any other issues, please do get in contact with us (simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com) and we will help if we can.

What if I can’t make those dates and times?

If you are interested in auditioning, but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact us (simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com) and we will try to see you at another time, if possible.

It would be helpful if you could bring a completed audition form, but forms will also be available at the auditions.

All OTG auditions are run according to the OTG audition policy and harassment policy.

Rehearsals

Rehearsals will start with a readthrough and costume measurement session in December. We will then have a second meeting to discuss the setting of the play, the historical background and the characters. Rehearsals will start in earnest after the new year.

Rehearsal days will be Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons and the rehearsals will usually take place in the URC Main hall in Summertown.

The schedule will start with 2/3 sessions per week moving to 4 as the production gets closer. Of course, not everyone will be called to every rehearsal - we will do our best to accommodate your existing commitments as we plan the schedule.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com.